Feds test public-safety LTE but will cancel 21 700 MHz waivers

While the National Institute of Standards and Technology is busily testing products for the planned nationwide LTE public-safety network, 21 municipalities will see their 700 MHz public-safety spectrum rights terminated next month by FCC.

Wireless device testing company Anite announced that its test solutions are being used by NIST to assess the U.S. LTE public-safety network and associated devices. NIST "is working with government agencies and device manufacturers to ensure that any LTE enabled public safety device operates effectively on the soon to be deployed U.S. public-safety LTE network," said Anite.

The company claims to be responsible for more than 80 percent of all LTE test case verification submissions to 3GPP RAN5 for the PTCRB certification requirements. PTCRB is the certification forum used by North American cellular operators.

Meanwhile, the FCC recently announced the 21 jurisdictions that received public-safety broadband waivers in May 2010 allowing them to lease 700 MHz spectrum from the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) will see those rights expire on Sept. 2, after which the entities will need to acquire a six-month special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC to continue operating. The FCC said in its order that STAs will be awarded "in very few instances, and only where deployment clearly serves the public interest and will not be detrimental to the Public Safety Spectrum Act's goals or jeopardize the mandate to deploy a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network."

Of the 21 jurisdictions that received broadband waivers, the two most likely to receive the STAs, if they want them, are Charlotte, N.C., and the state of Texas. The commission approved both of those entities' interoperability showings, which would enable them to deploy and operate public-safety LTE networks under their existing spectrum leases with the PSST.

Before the FCC officially announced its plan, the city of Charlotte deemed the temporary authority scenario as being too risky for the city to continue making investments in its public-safety LTE network. Charlotte has since indicated it is studying the FCC's order. Texas--in particular Harris County, to which much of Houston belongs--appears bullish on continuing its public-safety LTE effort.

The FCC said it will only issue STAs for existing 700 MHz public-safety broadband spectrum, not the reallocated 700 MHz D-Block spectrum. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, enacted Feb. 22, established the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to develop the nationwide public-safety LTE network under an FCC license for both the existing public-safety broadband spectrum (763-769 MHz/793-799 MHz) and the spectrally adjacent D Block (758-763 MHz/788-793 MHz), which the act reallocated to public safety.

In its recent order, the FCC also dismissed all pending 700 MHz broadband waiver requests. The order did not specify procedures for transferring the existing 700 MHz spectrum license from PSST to FirstNet.

For more:
- see this Anite release
- see this FCC order (pdf)
- see this Urgent Communications article
- see this Radio Resource article

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