Adams County’s LTE Network Goes Live on 700 MHz Public-Safety Band
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 | Comments

 

By Michelle Zilis, Managing Editor

The Adams County (Colorado) Communications Center (Adcom 9-1-1) is the first Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) awardee to operate a Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in the dedicated public-safety 700 MHz band 14 spectrum. Adcom went live June 6.

“We think it’s an honor, an opportunity and a sense of duty,” said Bill Malone, Adcom 9-1-1 executive director, regarding being the first BTOP to go live. “We’re fortunate. … Someone has got to be first, and we’re honored to do it.”

The system is operating on technology that follows the Third Generation Partnership Program (3GPP) Release 9 standard in the dedicated public-safety spectrum. The technology is software upgradeable for at least the next two 3GPP releases, said a General Dynamics C4 Systems official. Many commercial LTE providers use Release 9. Public-safety features will not be included in the LTE standard until Releases 12 and 13.

General Dynamics C4 Systems is the project integrator and supplied some of the system hardware. The whole system is open source, said Chris Marzilli, president of General Dynamics C4 Systems.

“Open standards allows for competition to deliver the best product,” Malone said. “We’re not limited by ‘special sauce.’ ”

The system has 15 fixed sites in Adams County and three fixed sites in Denver. There are no devices operating on the system, but several future uses were demonstrated using the network at the launching event. This included a city of Brighton patrol car using a mobile data terminal to run an application and broadcast a Wi-Fi cloud throughout the vehicle; Brighton’s mobile command post operating CAD software with connectivity to six workstations streaming live high-resolution videos from around the city; a North Metro Fire vehicle operating a mobile app; and a cell on wheels running a situational awareness app. Intrado demonstrated the THOR Shield mobile communications and command center to show integration with next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) emergency dispatch.

“Today is the ‘touch it, see it, feel it’ day,” said Chief Eric Tade, Denver Fire Department and chair of Colorado’s First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) governing board. “Today it becomes a reality.”

Once testing is finished, Adcom will gradually start to roll out the applications to different users, said Malone. “I have a feeling it’ll happen quickly once it’s available,” he said. “People will want it once they see what it can do.”

In December 2013, Adcom reached a lease agreement for 700 MHz broadband spectrum with FirstNet and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) lifted the suspension of grant money. Three other BTOP jurisdictions — New Jersey, Los Angeles-Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS) and the state of New Mexico — have reached agreements with FirstNet.

“There have been so many hurdles and missed attempts, but Adams County has been persistent in its desire to be at the forefront on this and never gave up,” said Congressman Ed Perlmutter at the event. “All of Colorado benefits from this.”

The project has been in the works for a long time. In May 2010, the FCC granted waivers to Adcom and 20 other entities seeking to construct regional or statewide interoperable 700 MHz broadband networks. In September 2010, Adcom received a $12.1 million grant to fund the network via the NTIA’s BTOP grant program. Seven groups received public-safety BTOP grants.

The county worked on building the network, issuing a request for proposals (RFP), and as of December 2011 was on track to meet a buildout date of April 2013. The grant stipulated the network must be built by August 2013.

However, in May of 2012, with the creation of FirstNet, NTIA partially suspended the grants. The agency then had to negotiate to lease spectrum from FirstNet, which now holds the nationwide public-safety broadband license.

Harris County, Texas, is operating a 700 MHz public-safety broadband network under a special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC as negotiations regarding a spectrum lease agreement continue between Texas and FirstNet. Harris County was not a BTOP awardee and is funding its network through federal homeland-security grants.

During the event, Malone, Tade, Perlmutter, Marzilli and Jeff Bratcher, deputy CTO for FirstNet, spoke. Malone was praised as the project visionary and an exceptional leader throughout the presentations.

“This is work we’re extraordinarily proud to be a part of,” said Marzilli. “It was absolutely critical to have the project visionary of Malone. … This is a bold vision, and we’re one step closer today” to the goal of a nationwide public-safety dedicated broadband network.

The importance of Adams County in proximity to the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) and FirstNet’s technical headquarters, both in Boulder, was acknowledged several times. “It is a true asset to have PSCR and FirstNet here in Colorado,” Malone said.

“FirstNet congratulates Adcom and NTIA for working together to make this happen,” said FirstNet’s Bratcher. “FirstNet is looking forward to leveraging lessons learned here to be used across the country.”

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