Texas county will operate and expand public-safety LTE network

Harris County, Texas, will not only go ahead and operate its new public-safety 700 MHz LTE network under to a recent FCC ruling, but it is moving ahead on a plan to more than double the number of sites serving the network.

On Aug. 1, the FCC approved interoperability showings from the state of Texas as well as Charlotte, N.C., which enable those jurisdictions to deploy and operate public-safety LTE networks under their existing 700 MHz spectrum leases with the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST).

Within Texas--Harris County, which includes much of the city of Houston--has been moving especially aggressively to deploy a 700 MHz LTE network for public safety. Now armed with FCC permission to run its network, the county is also preparing to expand the system from six sites to 14 sites, according to Urgent Communications.

However, in its Aug. 1 ruling, the FCC also decided 21 jurisdictions that received public-safety broadband waivers in May 2010--that allowed them to lease 10 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum from the PSST--will see those rights expire on Sept. 2, after which the entities will need to acquire six-month special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC to continue operating. Texas and Charlotte are included in that group, meaning windows allowing them to operate their LTE networks will be fleeting without the acquisition an STA every six months.

Charlotte, a waiver recipient that the FCC said has an approximately $17 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, said in an earlier FCC filing that it "has already incurred all the costs associated" with the first phase of network deployment. However, the city has now decided not to operate its LTE network after determining it is too risky to depend on the granting of STAs every six months.

Harris County is being more bullish. "We understand that there is some risk involved with going live on an STA, but we're pretty confident that it's eventually going to get a permanent license, and we'll be operating permanently," Craig Bernard, Harris County's senior director of mobility, told Urgent Communications.

In April Motorola Solutions (NYSE:MSI) announced it had snagged a $4 million add-on contract to expand Harris County's 700 MHz public-safety LTE network  from six LTE sites to 13, rather than the 14 now being discussed. The original contract for the six initial LTE sites was valued at $7 million, Motorola Solutions spokesman Steve Gorecki told FierceBroadbandWireless.

For more:
- see this Urgent Communications article

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