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Welcome to the latest in the family of Wi-Fi Networking News site: Public safety emerged as a new and enormous category in the wireless communication and networking world on Sept. 11, 2001, as it became clear that decades-old devices used for emergency communications among fire, police, and first responders not only didn’t operate as it should but didn’t interoperate, either. And it wasn’t just that radios failed, but rather the complete loss of telecommunications infrastructure meant secondary, less-critical public safety and municipal communication was lost, too.
Thus the modern era of public safety wireless was born. Every significant company manufacturing wireless equipment for businesses has entered the public safety market if they didn’t already have a foot or an entire leg in the field. A relatively new swath of spectrum at 4.9 gigahertz (GHz) reserved for public safety wireless data has led in recent months to a flood of new equipment designed for that band and those purposes.
The Sprint Nextel merger didn’t just allow the two companies to merge holdings, but rather was predicated on a massive and expensive spectrum swap that will move Nextel’s scattered frequencies licenses to contiguous bands while providing the money and equipment to get public safety radios across the country on coordinated spectrum and new hardware.
A final trend: Metropolitan-scale wireless networks. While the public access components of these networks has been of highest visibility, the public safety part of the networks should be emphasized as well in those cities that are requiring that as part of the network buildout. Early adopters in San Mateo and Corpus Christi already saw the benefits of moving from a very old digital cellular standard (CDPD) to a modern, enormously faster specification. It’s likely to save money, time, and lives as more municipalities adopt either public safety-only or public/private networks that have a separate, dedicated component for first responders.
I look forward to hearing from people in the field about what works and what doesn’t. The scope of this blog will be all public safety wireless, with a focus on data, but not exclusive to it, and it’s increasingly difficult to separate out voice and data running over what are becoming entirely digital networks.
Posted by Glennf at July 7, 2006 9:54 AM
Glenn - congrats on this effort. As the nature of the threats and challenges that face public safety change, so must the technology. I look forward to participating.
Posted by: Morgan Wright at July 10, 2006 8:13 AM