APCO: 700 MHz proposal offers voice potential

Published 16 August 2007

The LMR is not dead yet: The FCC has approved dedicationg a portion of the 700 MHz band to public safety, trouble is, many in public-safety communications have been wary of IP-based voice technologies; APCO says the band can accommodate voice

News of the land-mobile radio’s (LMR) demise is premature. In evidence: The communication problems which hobbles rescue and recovery efforts during 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina brought many public safety analysts and practitioners to call for a dedicated public safety communication band. They have also had a specific band in mind: The 700 MHz band, which will be soon vacated by TV broadcasters as they implement the government-mandated move to digital TV. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is moving toward approving dedicating a portion of the 700 MHz band for public safety, and speakers at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials(APCO) conference held last week in Baltimore say they expected that in addition to delivering bandwidth-intensive data and video applications, the nationwide public-private network proposed for the 700 MHz band also could serve as a voice network in the long-term future. MRT reports that in response to an attendee’s question whether preliminary plans to upgrade his public-safety entity’s land mobile network in light of the nationwide broadband network being proposed for the 700 MHz band, Harlin McEwen, president of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) that hopes to be the public-safety licensee in the public-private network arrangement, encouraged further LMR (land-mobile radio) development. “I believe you should not abandon land-mobile strategies and systems,” McEwen said. “It will be a long time, if ever, before we can abandon those.” In particular, McEwen said he believes the peer-to-peer capabilities of LMR radios always will have tactical value for first responders, particularly when networks fail or are unavailable. McEwen acknowledged, though, that a public-safety-grade broadband network would have voice-application potential. “It’s certainly the vision of many of us that 10 or 15 years from now