Harris County Extends LTE Coverage to Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Thursday, March 17, 2016 | Comments

Harris County, Texas, expanded its public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) network to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, March 1 –20. The pilot aims to test devices and coverage.

The event, held at Houston’s NRG Park, draws about 2.4 million visitors each year throughout the 20 days. Harris County officials brought in an Ericsson-supplied cell on wheels (COW) to cover the event area, which includes NRG stadium, arena, conference center and Astrodome. A nearby county facility is supplying power to the COW.

The Harris County public-safety LTE network will eventually have permanent coverage at NRG Park but the area is not yet built out, said Shing Lin, director of public-safety technology services for Harris County.

More than 100 users are on the system with devices from Sonim Technologies, Bittium and Motorola Solutions. Several applications, including SLA’s ESChat push-to-talk (PTT) app and Intrepid Networks’ Sting situational awareness app, are being piloted as well.

Shing said the NRG has a separate LMR voice system, and county officials have bridged some NRG talk groups with the PTT to alleviate unnecessary traffic.

He said the county is learning about the operational support needed for the network. The officers aren’t accustomed to the applications, and the devices are going through multiple hands and shifts. Several agencies, including the event’s security committee, the Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office and other local agencies, are using the devices. Harris County staff is supporting the event from 5:30 a.m. until midnight, Shing said.

He said the county is also learning lessons about loading the network and making it more reliable. He said officials are also tracking user adoption. For example, because of the event’s noisy environment, users prefer different device accessories, such as in-ear headsets or wireless remote speaker microphones (RSMs).

Harris County last year discussed a business model for financial sustainability of its early builder network.

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