Wireless LTE for Public Safety Pilot Project Developed in Minnesota to Establish State Model for Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network
Key players in the wireless industry have partnered with government entities in the state of Minnesota in an attempt to encourage an innovative model involving private-public partnerships that establish a national public safety broadband system. This pilot project in Central Minnesota is a public-private collaboration between the State of Minnesota, Great River Energy (GRE), Motorola, NewCore Wireless, Central Transport Group, the City of Elk River, TESSCO and CommScope.
All private-sector partners participating in this project have donated equipment, tower space, technical services and carrier services at no cost to the government for this project.
Building upon their prior cooperation, the Minnesota-based group aims to provide the following:
- Opportunities on how to evaluate public-private partnerships in a public safety broadband network deployment;
- Execute a model MOA between the State and a private entity for network deployment in a way that will provide meaningful inputs into the state-FirstNet consultation process;
- Allow public safety in a rural environment to experience the benefits of public safety LTE.
A trial site was deployed in the city of Elk River, a third-tier suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul. The site’s trial location was selected because it best allowed the project team to test and demonstrate data applications that may be more applicable to smaller, rural towns. Additionally, Elk River has inadequate commercial cellular coverage and, as such, broadband applications that could potentially be used over a public network cannot be deployed successfully in the city.
Drawing on their industry leadership and knowledge associated with delivering LTE wireless sites, the project team is set to showcase how FirstNet can bring forth technology that enables public safety personnel to access information that supports their responsibilities to make quicker, safer and better decisions for the public good.
In a unique situation compared to other states, Minnesota has a robust statewide public safety trunked radio network deployed that provides two-way voice services to most public safety personnel in the state. This system is a model of how one network serves different segments of the public safety community, from state patrol to volunteer firefighters. This pilot program expands upon the collaboration already in place within the state and seeks to extend the utilization of valuable resources to the private sector. The project team will demonstrate how to advance solutions in the most forward thinking and cost effective manner possible, using as many of the state’s current resources both in the public and private sector.
“The ability to access real-time data is a critical function for public safety first responders,” said T. John Cunningham, Elk River’s fire chief and director of emergency management. “This network will provide the ideal platform for testing some of the latest technology and equipment that could enhance public and first responder safety.” The city is currently planning a future full-scale disaster response exercise using the high-speed network.
“This is a great opportunity to show how public and private sectors can work together for the common good of all interested parties. We are excited about being a part of this pilot project,” said Kathy Nelson, Principal Telecommunications Engineer of Great River Energy.
“NewCore Wireless is proud to be a part of this project,” said Albert Kangas, GM and COO of NewCore Wireless. “We share the overall commitment of the group to address national public safety challenges of the ever-evolving demands of today’s rapidly-changing network. NewCore Wireless has made great strides in providing our business partners, municipalities and businesses with better telecommunications services and technology. We look forward to working to continue this leadership and service.”
“TESSCO is excited to be a part of the Public Safety Broadband Network pilot project,” said Mark Wymer, VP of Business & Market Development. “By leveraging our strong relationships with vendor partners, we were able to provide access to the critical hardware required to support the ever-important public safety network. We look forward to continuing our participation and providing on-going logistics expertise for delivery and deployment.”
In February 2012, Congress passed landmark legislation to create a nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN). To achieve this objective, the legislation established the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent authority within the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA). FirstNet holds a nationwide spectrum license for the NPSBN and is charged with building, deploying, and operating the NPSBN. FirstNet has been working with the public safety community, the wireless industry, and other key stakeholders to develop effective frameworks for providing interoperable broadband communications to first responders throughout the country.
FirstNet’s license is for the 700 MHz band, an important band of spectrum available for both commercial wireless and public safety communications. Often called “beachfront” spectrum, the 700 MHz Band gives it excellent propagation characteristics, allowing signals to penetrate buildings and walls easily and to cover larger geographic areas with fewer infrastructures. FirstNet is imperative for the next generation of nationwide public safety and disaster response communications. The pilot project in Central Minnesota establishes a collaborative working relationship with local, state and federal agencies, carriers and wireless leaders, all focused on the same goals.