Receive new posts as email.
This site operates as an independent editorial operation. Advertising, sponsorships, and other non-editorial materials represent the opinions and messages of their respective origins, and not of the site operator or JiWire, Inc.
Entire site and all contents except otherwise noted © Copyright 2001-2006 by Glenn Fleishman. Some images ©2006 Jupiterimages Corporation. All rights reserved. Please contact us for reprint rights. Linking is, of course, free and encouraged.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the 2004 deal with Sprint Nextel for cleaning up public safety static is still vastly far from complete: The company agreed to pay up to $4.86b to consolidate its messy Nextel holdings that were interwoven with public safety frequencies; they also got 10 MHz as an incentive. The money was to paid directly to police, fire, emergency, and other public safety entities to get new gear to move from the frequencies that Sprint Nextel would gain, to new, unencumbered ranges. It was a win-win for Nextel and public safety agencies, while other cell companies carped at the low price Nextel managed to agree to.
Any dollar below $4.86b goes to the Treasury; any dollar over is paid by Sprint Nextel. This produced a dilemma. Sprint Nextel has every release to keep costs to $4.86b to the dollar, and they can wrap that in a flag: “Every dollar we spend is a dollar that doesn’t go to the U.S. Treasury,” Lawrence Krevor, Sprint’s senior vice president, government affairs, told the Journal.
However, the cost may be vastly higher than estimated. Sprint Nextel is playing hardball in every negotiation and won’t be nearly complete within the three-year required period, which ends soon. Motorola says it’s shipped 1% of the needed equipment. Sprint Nextel says it’s paid $1.5b of the possible $4.86b. But then the Journal finds stories like the one in Chester County, Penn., where the emergency services director says he’s been working for three years to get the fee set for the preliminary studies for communications upgrades without success. He estimates the final cost could be $18.5m to $150m—for one county in Pennsylvania. They might be atypical, but I doubt it.
Interference persists, and AT&T is demanding action due to their own requirement to investigate (at their own expense) any incidents that occur, even when they are apparently mostly or always due to Nextel’s gear.
Can’t wait for the lawsuits.
FCC commissioners today voted on rules for the auction of 700 MHz of spectrum, including public safety capacity: Frontline’s proposal for matching 10 MHz in one set of commercial licenses with 12 MHz of dedicated public safety spectrum has mostly won out. The FCC will auction 22 MHz off for use as both commercial and public safety spectrum, with public safety users gaining priority use of the band during emergencies. Frontline had one of many incompatible proposals for providing more public safety spectrum while, at the same time, expanding commercial use.
In this plan, a public-safety entity will oversee the network, which will be built by the winning commercial bidder at that bidder’s expense. The network has to cover 99.3 percent of the US population within 10 years. Problems with this plan include the potential for a lack of bidders, and for a winning bidder to fail during network build-out. At which point, Ars Technica asks, what then?
The LAPD says their Wi-Fi-linked video surveillance in Watts has caused crime to plummet: Video surveillance has a particular emphasis around the Jordan Downs housing project as gang members are forbidden by injunction “to loiter, congregate, drink in public, and carry weapons,” Information Week writes. Traffic is down in that one area by 32 percent, and smaller declines in adjacent neighborhoods.
Chairman Martin puts proposals for more public safety bandwidth coupled to commercial uses outside of emergencies on the table: There have been generally positive signals towards some of the proposals that would allow a private company to build out national coverage, with priority on a mixed-use band for public safety.
The Beaverton, Ore., police department has wired up 40 cruisers to use a new public safety wireless network: The network allows typical uses like handling email, retrieving mug shots, and looking up priors. The network started with downtown coverage and is working its way out to the rest of the town. Officers will eventually be able to write and print tickets from wireless handheld devices.
700 MHz spectrum auctions still being finalized: Competing proposals address public-safety component. The sale of 60 MHz of the spectrum could raise $15b to $30b for the Treasury. So far, 24 MHz is allotted to public safety. Cyren Call’s proposal appears dead as it requires rewriting auction rules, and giving a single company managing a not-for-profit trust control over that segment. One synthesis proposal (that includes Frontline’s hybrid commercial/public safety model) could take 12 MHz of the public-safety allotment and turn that over to a not-for-profit trust which would hire a commercial partner to build the network; commercial services on that band would have primary access except in emergencies.
PacketHop releases their Communication System 3.0, with new secured mobile video surveillance options; and hardware: The PacketHop system is aimed at first responders and others involved in public safety and general security. The latest system supports robust streaming video from surveillance systems for users as they move towards a scene of interest—what PacketHop dubs “drive-up surveillance.”
The company has also added two hardware devices. While originally a hardware firm with a software overlay, the company reorganized itself around applications that could run over many systems, using techniques to improve the quality of service and throughput. They’ve now introduced hardware again: the Mobile Router for vehicle access, which can handle up to three radios (802.11a/b/g, 4.9 GHz public safety, and cellular), and be used to broadcast video as well. The Mesh Exchange is a mesh node designed to connect to a video camera to push traffic to the rest of a network using 802.11a/b/g and/or 4.9 GHz.
Motorola now supports video surveillance over wireless through its ecosystem: The firm has integrated its various mesh, point-to-point, point-to-multipoint (Canopy), and pre-WiMax gear with applications supplied by a variety of vendors. This is a growing trend, seen with Cisco and Nortel as well. Their announcement today highlights wireless video surveillance, with a quote in the release from Sony. The notion is that on an integrated platform, customers don’t have to figure out how to get a camera or other device that’s been certified as part of the system to work across the network. Rather, you plug it in, and use a standard management interface or other tools to get it running, requiring less training and less third-party integration expense.
The Justice Department’s inspector general gives national law enforcement wireless network poor marks: $200m has been spent with little to show for it. The majority of the $772m allotted to the program was used to support the older, existing networks. The system’s overall cost will be $5b and take until 2021 to complete; 81,000 agents of the Justice, Homeland Security, and Treasury departments are to use the network. The Department of Homeland Security can’t wait for progress and is charting its own course.
Private analysts now peg the full cost at $30b, according to The Washington Post. The project is 15 months behind at present. In-fighting among departments, a long-standing problem in federal law enforcement, is one of the factors, the inspector general found.
A number of large-scale federal projects have been abandoned in recent years after hundreds of millions or even billions being spent, including an FBI project mentioned in this article, and the next-generation air-traffic control system. Software projects don’t scale, and integrated software/hardware projects are always orders of magnitude greater than expected.
For a great book on why projects like this fail, and how to avoid some of those problems, read Scott Rosenberg’s Dreaming in Code. He explains how software complexity has outstripped program management capability.
Firetide powers the mesh network in Dallas created by local firm BearCom for crime reduction: The system covers 30 percent of downtown with live video monitoring carried over mesh Wi-Fi connections. The system has 40 cameras, 32 Firetide mesh nodes, and seven long-range wireless bridges from BridgeWave. The system uses 4.9 GHz.
Frontline Wireless pushes hybrid public safety/commercial model for some of 700 MHz: The group, headed by former NTIA and FCC figures, would like to impose a public-safety override requirement on one of the licenses in 700 MHz without devoting the license to public safety. It’s a little tricky to navigate, but there’s 12 MHz already allocated for narrowband voice in 700 MHz to public safety. Frontline wants 10 MHz adjacent to that (the E Block in the auction’s definitions) to be required to have a combined purpose. A bidder who wins the E Block license would have certain access to another 12 MHz that’s currently planned to be allotted to public safety for broadband purposes.
Frontline’s two twists are that the existing auctions could be carried out with this provision overlaid on a license, and that they propose an open access model in which there would be no restriction on the types of devices that would be allowed to be used in that frequency range. The licensee would have to resell access on a wholesale basis, too, making it of greater utility to allow the greatest number of different devices.
Competing plans want half of the 60 MHz scheduled for auction to be set aside for a national public safety network that would be operated by a single private operator, such as Verizon. All the proposals are predicated on the infrastructure cost being borne by private parties, obviating public dollars being spent on the buildout, but forgoing federal receipt of perhaps billions of dollars of spectrum bids.
The leading metro-scale equipment vendor Tropos moves into public safety: The firm’s wireless nodes are currently used more than any others by an order of magnitude in the US due to EarthLink’s adoption of Tropos as their standard for mesh/end-user deployment. Adding 4.9 GHz public-safety gear is a critical move as cities and public safety officials continue a broad trend of moving beyond simple municipal employee access and residential/visitor service with wireless networks.
Tropos released a series of 4.9 GHz routers, the Tropos 9000 family, which tie into their MetroMesh architecture for simulation, reporting, and management. The 9532 is dual-band (2.4/4.9 GHz) for fixed outdoor use; the 9432 is a mobile dual-band router; and the 9431 is a single-band 4.9 GHz node. The 9432 is designed to create a hotspot around a mobile vehicle in both 2.4 and 4.9 GHz, while also connecting to the mesh network in either band, with fallover from 4.9 GHz to 2.4 GHz.
The routers will ship in third quarter 2007.
Toledo, Ohio, looks more to police, emergency purposes than public access: The system that the city is building will offer both, but the municipality appears more interested in how they can streamline emergency response, especially medical, and reduce police paperwork and overhead. They’re looking to Corpus Christi as an example of what can be done.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants 30 MHz more in the upper 700 MHz band reserved for public safety communications: The senator, often involved in net and spectrum issues, said this is the last opportunity to preserve this spectrum for additional public safety purposes. The Public Safety Broadband Trust would reallocate 30 MHz for a national, interoperable public safety network that would be built by the private sector. Verizon and others stand to benefit from the single-operator, private-network provision. Only 24 MHz is currently allocated for public safety in 700 MHz. Additional allocation is in the 4.9 GHz band.
The TIA believes existing allocations are sufficient.
Maryland is using $1m federal grant to test digital IDs: The notion is that these IDs would allow a first responder to provide credentials, and produce an automatic count of who is on the scene. The first round of IDs won’t include GPS trackers, but that could be added. The cards will be scanned by handheld devices linked via WI-Fi to a network. Five thousand cards will be issued in this test, but there are only seven card readers.
The new York Times reports that a multi-year project for the transit system has significant flaws: The new radio system was designed to integrate above-ground and in-subway communications. The problem is that interference abounds making the system unusable, the Police Department says. The department won’t use the system, which was developed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The MTA’s police force merged in 1995 with the New York City Police Department.
The story is so typical, it makes one want to spit. Despite significant problems known as long as ago as 2001, the MTA kept authorizing the contractor to continue to build out. The police told the MTA in mid-2004 they wouldn’t use the interference-ridden system, and the MTA has been working on fixes. But they continued to press for the new system’s use, regardless of the lack of efficacy. The contractor doesn’t appear to be at fault because they built to spec, relying on the MTA for approval and for providing some infrastructure that proved inadequate.
At this point, the $140m cost will probably balloon to $210m, which is above the original $115m budget. Part of the cost is an additional $36m to replace underground wires used as antennas—something like leaky coax, I’m sure—that turned out to have 72 miles that was unusable, or about a fifth of the system they expected to rely on.
Another change will result from switching from analog to digital, which wasn’t an option when the network was planned several years ago.
The FCC proposes that 12 MHz in the 700 MHz public-safety band be reserved for a private operator to handle this: Despite the support of all five commissioners, this may cause some anger among officials who don’t want already scarce spectrum reallocated. The network would use IP-based communications to allow interoperability among devices instead of proprietary approaches. One company would get the rights to run the network and sell access to public-safety entities. They’re looking for comments.
George Mason University hosts The Crisis in Public Safety Communications: The event is free with limited seating, and will be held Dec. 8, 2006, at 8 am to 1.30 pm. It’s a vital topic for anyone involved in public safety wireless and communication.