First Multivendor LTE System Used During RNC in Florida
Officers from St. Petersburg Police Department and Tampa Police Department in Florida used commercial off the shelf (COTS) mobile devices over a band 14 public-safety broadband network to stream live video in real time to command centers and to access the police two-way voice systems during the Republican National Convention (RNC) Aug. 27 – 30 in Tampa.
A consortium composed of Cisco, Raytheon, Nokia Siemens Networks, Reality Mobile and Amdocs deployed the nation’s first multivendor interoperable public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) network during the convention. The network was deployed in the downtown area and included users from both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
The system marks the first time federal, state and local first responders have simultaneously used a 700 MHz D block broadband network for a national special security event (NSSE), officials said. The network was deployed under special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC. In keeping with the STA requirements, the LTE network offered an alternative method of communications to field personnel that allowed roaming between commercial and private dedicated high-speed 4G services.
Having LTE on the public-safety-only band 14 eliminated any concerns that the networks might become congested or unusable at some point during the event, said Sgt. Dale A. Moushon, St. Petersburg Police Department intelligence unit. “We’ve seen during major events that cell use can become difficult, if not impossible, but with this network we were very comfortable and confident that the network wouldn’t become congested or unusable,” he said.
The system used COTS products from each of the partners to enable a manufacturer-agnostic platform for smartphones, tablets and computers sharing video, voice and data in real time. About 40 Apple devices, a mixture of iPhones and iPads, were used in the field to collect information. Pinellas County had purchased the devices using Public Safety Interoperability Communication (PSIC) grant money prior to the kickoff of this event, Moushon said.
One of the most popular applications, Reality Mobile’s RealityVision mobile video and visual collaboration platform, enabled law enforcement to have real-time visuals of the event. Instead of the typical procedure where officers report what they are seeing on the ground to the command center via a radio communications system, with the LTE network, officers could film the scene and stream it in real time back to the command center. This saved airtime and operational time, Moushon said. It also eliminated questions about what the officer was really seeing and describing, and made it easier to adapt to the fluid situations they were viewing.
“Historically, we’ve never been able to do that; to have real-time visuals on the event as it takes place was very beneficial,” he said.
Another popular application was part of the Cisco IP Interoperability and Collaboration System (IPICS) suite that allowed the devices to connect into the LMR systems with a push-to-talk (PTT) feature. This allowed the officers on the ground to communicate with other officers operating traditional radios.
The array of applications on the network used integrated fixed camera feeds, live video transmitted from smartphones, GPS-enabled blue force tracking and Project 25 (P25) PTT voice resources from existing federal, state and local radio systems. Two separate 800 MHz public-safety radio networks were used during the event.
The LTE packet core, Unified Communications applications, IP routing/switching and cyber security were provided by Cisco. Nokia Siemens Networks provided the LTE radio access network, and Reality Mobile provided the mobile video and visual collaboration platform. Amdocs provided subscriber and device data management and policy control. Raytheon provided project management and systems engineering support.
The network was funded mainly through donations from the participating vendors, said Bob Meyer, Public Safety and Security Solutions, Raytheon JPS. Originally the network was expected to be funded in part by Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) funding, but the agencies didn’t receive the grant dollars.
To witness the group of private companies coming together for the benefit of public agencies “was refreshing to see,” Moushon said.
“I believe this project reinforced the importance of a close working relationship among all the stakeholders, including the vendors and the customers,” said Meyer. “We overcame some significant obstacles during the planning and deployment phases of this project to have a successful trial at the RNC, and in every case it was because the team cooperated to find a way to resolve the issue and keep moving. As a program manager, I can say this was a team effort with support and contributions from all members — vendors and customers alike.”
The STA is valid until January 2013. The St. Petersburg Police Department plans to conduct various use cases and tests with the system during the next three months. No final decisions have been made about how the network will be used, but the department is considering several options.
The network coverage is limited to the downtown area, and the St. Petersburg Police Department has a unit deployed to the area, so they are considering having that unit use it until the STA expires. And a cost/benefit study is being conducted to consider having the Panasonic Toughbooks that are deployed in all officer cars, which currently use commercial carriers, added to the LTE network.
The applications and COTS devices were purchased by the county and will remain as local assets to be used anywhere in the county to support daily operations by law enforcement and first responders.