FCC mandates LTE for public safety

Updated 1/27/11

The FCC voted to mandate LTE technology in the 700 MHz public-safety band, a move the FCC said was necessary to ensure an interoperable nationwide broadband network, especially as the commission continues to issue waivers to public-safety entities at the city, county and state level to build mobile broadband networks in the spectrum already allocated to public safety.

In addition, the FCC is asking for comment on creating a technical framework for the interoperable network that includes issues such as network architecture, coverage requirements, security and resiliency of the network. The FCC also established a new public service advisory committee to ensure that public-safety networks will be interoperable.

While the FCC doesn't typically mandate technology standards, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the move was necessary to ensure nationwide interoperability.

The main issue that is still on the table is what to do with the D-Block spectrum in the 700 MHz band. Back in 2007 the FCC attempted to auction the band to a commercial entity that would have been required to be a part of a public-private partnership and give first-responders priority access on the network. No bidder was willing to meet the reserve price. Naturally, mobile operators want to get their hands on the spectrum, while public-safety entities say they need the additional spectrum to meet their growing needs for broadband services.

Another unresolved issue is how first responders will be able to pay for their networks, which collectively could cost $12 billion to $16 billion during the next 10 years.

Lawmakers are expected to reintroduce bills from the last Congress that spell out ways to pay for the networks. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D.-W.Va.) reintroduced legislation that would allocate the D Block of the 700 MHz band directly to public safety, instead of auctioning it as the FCC has proposed.

For more:
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article
- read this Connected Planet article
- take a look at this FierceWireless article

Related articles:
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Public-safety groups step up D-Block lobbying
FCC, public safety still at odds over D Block
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FCC grants public-safety agencies waivers to build LTE networks
FCC: 10 MHz is enough for public safety broadband network