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Demonstration Network Planned for Public Safety 700 MHz Broadband

NIST Tech Beat , 12/15/09

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have announced plans to create a demonstration broadband communications network for the nation’s emergency services agencies using a portion of the radiofrequency spectrum freed up by the recent transition of U.S. broadcast television from analog to digital technologies. The new system will provide a common demonstration site for manufacturers, carriers, and public safety agencies to test and evaluate advanced broadband communications equipment and software tailored specifically to the needs of emergency first responders.

Public safety agencies are looking to make use of the 700 megahertz (MHz) broadband spectrum cleared by the switch to digital TV. A unified broadband system would allow public safety agencies to communicate with nationwide roaming and enhanced interoperability. However, there are currently no government or independent laboratory facilities in the United States to test and demonstrate the public safety specific behaviors of this yet-to-be-deployed 700 MHz network and the applications that could run on top of it.

To address this critical gap, NIST and NTIA, through their Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program, will begin building a Public Safety Broadband Demonstration Network to provide manufacturers with a site for early deployment of their systems, an opportunity to evaluate them in a multi-vendor environment, and create integration opportunities for commercial service providers. A national broadband network could offer public safety groups around the country access to advanced communications technologies including video, mapping and GPS applications and more. Emergency responders, vendors, carriers, academia and other pertinent stakeholders also will able to access the demonstration network.

“This is an excellent opportunity for NIST and the PSCR to leverage our skills and assets to ensure the successful adoption and deployment of a new, nationwide communications system for public safety,” says Dereck Orr, PSCR program manager. “The demonstration of these new technologies, implementations and services is a critical step in successfully deploying the next generation of mission-critical systems.”

This demonstration network is currently in the preliminary planning stages and is expected to go live in mid-2010. Interested industry and public safety representatives can contact Orr at (303) 497-5400, dereck.orr@nist.gov, or Jeff Bratcher at (303) 497-4610, jbratcher@its.bldrdoc.gov, for information on how to get involved.

The PSCR program is a partnership of the NIST Office of Law Enforcement Standards and the NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (NTIA ITS). PSCR provides objective technical support—research, development, testing and evaluation—in order to foster nationwide public safety communications interoperability. More information is available on the PSCR Web site at www.pscr.gov.

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