Friday, May 18, 2007

"Next-Gen" Wireless Public Safety Communications

This May 2007 paper "Toward A Next-Generation Network for Public Safety Communications" (37 pages) authored by Dale N. Hatfield and Philip J. Weiser with the Silicon Flatirons Program at the University of Colorado School of Law is in part based on a two-day conference sponsored by the CTIA in April that brought together leaders of public safety and commercial wireless organizations - wireless user camps that have historically disagreed on subjects involving spectrum allocation (700 MHz issues are the most notable and recent debates) and the different and unique communications needs of each other.

“It was remarkable that the participants were able to reach a basic consensus on a number of key points in a debate where overheated rhetoric has sometimes obscured important common ground and concerns,” the report states, noting public safety’s pressing need for a next-generation network and a new policy model. With some continuing effort and hard work by both the commercial wireless and public safety communities, perhaps the political rhetoric and posturing can be replaced with a more responsible level of mutual understanding and consensus that will work for both groups, but more importantly, the general public.

Part I of the paper provides technological background, including the evolution of modern public safety communications systems and their attendant technological and operational limitations. It also addresses the technological requirements, architecture and possible constraints associated with a next generation network.

Part II looks at strategies for implementing a next generation architecture. It begins with a description of legacy regulatory strategies and proceeds to analyze possible policy strategies for a next generation network (along with its associated challenges and opportunities).

Part III sets out key concerns for the transition period, including working within the current technological framework, building a sustainable funding base, and establishing clear requirements and standards.

Finally, Part IV offers a short conclusion, one of which is that a public-private partnership arrangement might be the most realistic avenue to build and maintain a nationwide, next-generation wireless broadband network for public safety.

Well worth a read for anyone seriously involved, interested, or concerned about public safety spectrum matters.


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