Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Industry Group Proposes Public/Private Safety Network in 700 MHz band

A group of wireless industry and public safety communications veterans led by Morgan O'Brien, a co-founder of Nextel, called for the creation of a nationwide, seamless, next-generation network for improved public safety communications.

The group envisions a self-sustaining business model for public safety communications that takes advantage of the historic opportunity arising from the long-planned clearance of some of the nation's most useful frequencies, which broadcasters will vacate by 2009. Specifically, a 30 MHz block of spectrum in the 700 MHz band - presently allocated for commercial use and scheduled to be auctioned in 2008 - is ideally suited for a nationwide, next-generation public safety network because of its distinctive physical properties. The proposal was submitted to the FCC by Cyren Call Communications Corporation, which is headed by Morgan O'Brien.

"This spectrum represents America's best opportunity to foster state-of-the-art public safety communications. If this spectrum is auctioned to the private sector, the nation forever loses its best shot at fixing this issue once and for all," said O'Brien.

The Cyren Call proposal specifically calls for:

  • Establishing a Public Safety Broadband Trust: The FCC would exercise its authority to manage the public airwaves in the public interest by establishing a Public Safety Broadband Trust (PSBT) to hold the license for a 30 MHz block of cleared spectrum in the 700 MHz band and to structure innovative arrangements for its use, placing public safety needs first and making commercial usage secondary.

  • Strengthening the Private Sector's Role: The PSBT would negotiate terms for long-term access to this spectrum with private sector entities that would agree to build and maintain a nationwide, next-generation network for public safety. In exchange, the private sector entities would gain the right to share the network and sell excess capacity for commercial purposes.

  • Setting Incentives for a Robust, Competitive Network: The PSBT would set appropriate rules and technical standards to ensure backward compatibility to existing public safety systems, maximum interoperability, reliability, redundancy, competition, innovation and choices for public safety customers using this spectrum. The network would include a satellite-based element to ensure continuous operations when ground-based equipment is knocked out. Public safety agencies would have access to sufficient nationwide capacity to meet their current and future needs, and private companies would have the incentive to compete to offer a variety of interoperable hardware choices at the best prices.

  • Creating Self-Sustaining Financing: Rather than demand more money from taxpayers to finance this network, the proposal would give private companies incentives to build and maintain the national network to provide services to public safety agencies.

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