LA-RICS declares success testing public safety network

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The Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communication System Authority (LA-RICS) declared that its emergency data communications system passed its first big test during the 2016 Rose Parade in Pasadena.

The annual New Year's Day event drew an estimated 750,000 people and provided the first opportunity to test the LA-RICS system during a major event with local, state and federal emergency services agencies all using the same data network. The system is based on the same concept behind FirstNet, the nationwide project dedicated to providing an LTE broadband network specifically for public safety.

According to LA-RICS, 294 gigabytes of data – the equivalent of 20,000 YouTube videos – were transmitted among the agencies between 4 p.m. Dec. 31 and noon on New Year's Day. "The system functioned flawlessly," LA-RICS Executive Director Pat Mallon said in a press release last week.

Of course, making it all happen required the work of more than a few vendors. LA-RICS attributed the successful launch to at least 12 contributors: Motorola Solutions; BlackHawk Imaging; Sonim Technology; Intrepid Networks; ESChat by SLA Corporation; NVIS Communications; Barrett Communications; Star Solutions International Inc.; Pepro LLC; Canon Cameras; Airwave Communications; and Milestone Video Management Systems.

Motorola Solutions was awarded the contract to develop the LTE-based public-safety broadband network for LA-RICS in 2014, marking the first jurisdiction to approve a 700 MHz spectrum-lease pact with FirstNet. LA-RICS was one of seven Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) public-safety entities that received a total of $380 million in federal grant funding to build out public-safety LTE networks using 10 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum leased from the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST). 

Jim Hardimon, project director at Motorola Solutions, told FierceWirelessTech that during the Rose Parade, they used three fixed cell-phone towers, each with three antennas and 15 cameras deployed, both for fixed and mobile streaming, and the cameras were streaming video throughout the event. Ninety handheld devices were stationed along the 5-mile parade route.

"They were very pleased with the speed of the network and the reliability of the network," he said. Along with the 15 streams of video, text and incident command applications were going at the same time. As planned, multiple agencies were able to talk to each other on the same network. The same kind of system could be applied to, say, New Year's Eve in New York City.

Motorola Solutions also had several people stationed along the Rose Parade route who were using their own dedicated devices but also ran tests on the performance of the commercial cellular networks, which slowed any time a particularly impressive float went by because everyone was trying to capture it on camera, he said. LA-RICS said the speed at which its systems transmitted and uploaded data was three times faster than Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) commercial network and five times faster than AT&T's (NYSE: T).

The public safety network, however, performed continuously speedy and steady on the dedicated LA-RICS Band 14 network. Not only could officials talk with one another using push to talk (PTT) on LTE, but they also could talk between LTE and land mobile radios (LMR). 

Other Motorola Solutions applications used at the parade included Compasscom Converged Services that provides situational awareness capabilities by displaying the location of other public safety users on a map on the LEX L10 devices and at the command post. Motorola Solutions' VML 750 broadband modems also streamed the video wirelessly from vehicles and from fixed cameras back to command centers and broadband devices on the public safety network.

Sonim also worked with LA-RICS and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to provide FirstNet Band 14 enabled XP7 smartphones to 60 first responders, including the LA County Sheriff's Department and LA County Fire Department during the event. Sonim says it is one of the first OEMs to offer the ability to deploy the FirstNet Band 14 spectrum in its ultra-rugged smartphone technology.

For more:
- see this FirstNet release
- see this Sonim release

Related articles:
FirstNet releases final RFP for deployment of public safety broadband network
NTIA suspends funds for Los Angeles' public-safety LTE network
Motorola Solutions wins $175M LA-RICS' contract while FirstNet rejigs contractor lineup