Public-Safety LTE Pilot Exposes Necessity of Private Network
Tuesday, February 17, 2015 | Comments

Several themes were highlighted during a public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) pilot in the Colorado mountains last week: Public safety needs a private network for broadband, some rural communities might have greater needs for broadband than urban areas, and public-safety users quickly embrace LTE applications and devices.

Colorado state and local public-safety officials, working closely with industry suppliers, deployed a band 14 700 MHz LTE demonstration network during the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships (FIS AWSC) Feb. 2 – 15 in Vail and Beaver Creek, two mountain ski resorts in the state. With approval from the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), the FCC granted a special temporary authorization (STA) to use the band 14 spectrum.

FIS AWSC is an international event that drew about 150,000 spectators. The event included about 800 international athletes, staff and coaches from more than 70 different countries. About 2,200 first responders and volunteers worked during the event. The primary race venue was Beaver Creek Ski Resort, which is 10 miles west of Vail in an area with lackluster wireless coverage.

“We were lucky to get a text out of the race finish area in the past,” said Chief Dwight Henninger, Vail Police Department. “You could go to the top of the stands and maybe make a phone call.”

On Feb. 11, public-safety officials and industry representatives gave the media and others interested a tour of the network, including a General Dynamics Mission Systems deployable cell on wheels (COW) located at the base of the Beaver Creek race site. Three hot spots — one in the spectator stands, one in the race command post and one in a temporary building for VIPs — were established using the deployable site.

The network carried video from an FBI 1-megapixel video camera at the race finish. Ashley Thorne, special agent with the FBI and technical lead for the event, came in during the 2013 planning phase to survey the landscape and existing infrastructure and communications. “We found this to be one of the most hostile areas for RF ever because every building is made of stone and because of the mountains between Beaver Creek and Vail,” he said.

A feature article, including more user information and network and technology details, will be included in the March issue of MissionCritical Communications magazine.

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