No delay here: Motorola scores $4M Texas public-safety LTE contract

Motorola Solutions (NYSE:MSI) snagged a $4 million add-on contract to expand the 700 MHz public-safety LTE network in Harris County, Texas, showing that the county is blazing ahead with its LTE plans despite pleas from federal officials who have urged local jurisdictions to slow deployments while the government sorts out plans for a nationwide public-safety network.

The original contract, which included an initial six LTE sites, was valued at $7 million, said Motorola Solutions spokesman Steve Gorecki. Under the supplemental contract, Motorola will add seven LTE sites to the Harris County network for a total of 13 LTE sites capable of delivering enhanced video and data capabilities along with expanded interoperability with Harris County's existing Motorola Astro 25 Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system.

Harris County includes the cities of Houston and Galveston. The LTE network will initially serve the Port region and eventually expand throughout the Houston-Galveston Area Council Region.

Along with adding seven LTE sites, Motorola will also expand the Harris County broadband network to include real-time video intelligence software, enabling live fixed or mobile video delivery to and from the field; broadband push-to-talk software and servers to allow for increased PTT capabilities between LTE and Project 25 land mobile radio networks; and Motorola VML 700 LTE vehicle modems, MW810 mobile workstations and MVX1000 in-car digital video systems.

"We wanted a standards-based, reliable solution designed for the special mission-critical needs of public safety. An LTE solution that would allow us to leverage carrier networks for roaming and that could be integrated with our existing P25 LMR network was an important consideration," said Robert Cavazos, Harris County director of broadband services at Information Technology-Mobility.

Harris County's new LTE network is being enabled through an FCC waiver given to the state of Texas. It is not one of the jurisdictions that won grants in the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), which set aside $375 million in funds for public-safety LTE deployments. NTIA recently recommended that BTOP jurisdictions halt the purchase of LTE equipment while the federal government sorts out the transition process it will use to bring their networks under the umbrella of the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet. However, NTIA has not issued any firm instructions to vendors or jurisdictions.

"As of this date, we have not received any written direction from NTIA regarding any of the BTOP guidelines," said Gorecki.

Motorola said Harris County's broadband system "will comply with standards adopted for the national broadband plan." The initial deployment of the public-safety network has been tested and meets "the interoperability requirements of the Texas Department of Public Safety for a regional LTE network," the company added.

In a recent FCC proceeding addressing the transition of waiver recipients' authorizations to FirstNet, most commenters supported the rights of BTOP grants and other FCC waiver recipients to continue building their networks. Urgent Communications reported that several entities filing comments cited early public-safety LTE deployments as vital test beds that could provide real-world experience prior to the buildout of the FirstNet nationwide network, which could take years to come to fruition.

The FCC noted in its request for comments that jurisdictions such as Charlotte, N.C., and the state of Texas, which plan to put LTE networks into service in coming months, may be in a different position than other waiver recipients "because their deployments will bring public-safety benefits in the very near term."

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which became law on Feb. 22, 2012, authorized the creation of FirstNet and also allocated the 700 MHz D Block of spectrum for public-safety broadband.

For more:
- see this Motorola Solutions release
- see this Urgent Communications article and this article

Related articles:
Public safety told to stop early LTE deployments
Entner: Political expedience on 700 MHz trumps physics, revenue and consumer interests
FCC moves forward on 700 MHz interoperability and MSS spectrum rules
700 MHz public-safety LTE network won't break ground for a year
Public-safety LTE plans disrupted by 700 MHz D-Block legislation