Multiple vendors deploy public-safety LTE for Republican National Convention

Tue, 09/18/2012

Law-enforcement agencies in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area used a private, multi-vendor 700 MHz LTE network to share video, voice and data communications via smart devices during the Republican National Convention last month.

Operating on 20 MHz of Band 14 public-safety broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band via special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC, the two-site network delivered 20-30 Mb/s of throughput to 50 officers during the convention, according to Morgan Wright, a senior law-enforcement advisor for Cisco Systems, one of several companies that contributed to the LTE effort.

“The network performed better than we expected it to, given that this was the first time we’d put something in the field,” Wright said during an interview with Urgent Communications.

The multi-vendor LTE network marked the first time that federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies have used a 700 MHz Band 14 network for a National Special Security Event (NSSE) such as the convention, according to a press release from the consortium of vendors.

Cisco provided the LTE packet core, unified communications applications, IP routing and cybersecurity, while Nokia Siemens Networks provided the LTE radio access network and Reality Mobile provided the mobile video and visual-collaboration platform, according to the release. Amdocs provided subscriber and device data management, and policy control, while Raytheon provided project management and systems engineering support.

“It was really a good thing, pulling together the equipment and support from the various manufacturers to operate that way,” Bob Meyer, business development manager for Raytheon’s public safety and security unit, said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “The significance of that was that the communications were used tactically by the law-enforcement and public-safety community here—it wasn’t just a demonstration at a trade show or a technology demo someplace.

“It really went well. In fact, it was not difficult, because the vendors all provide standards-compliant equipment, so it was essentially plug and play.”

Officers at the convention used commercial devices that used secure Wi-Fi connections to portable “manpack” Band 14 hotpots that linked to the private LTE network, according to Meyer.
The fact that the LTE network leveraged equipment and solutions from multiple vendors is important, especially because budget-strapped public-safety agencies would like to leverage commercial technology that costs a fraction of typical purpose-built first-responder devices, Wright said.

“The biggest thing we wanted to do was bust out this myth that everything has to be monolithic,” he said. “What this proves to public safety is that you can deploy a network, make it secure, put applications on there that serve a very specific, mission-oriented purpose, and have it be a mixed environment—one provider of the RAN, one provider of the core, a third provider of devices and multiple types of applications.

“We’ve really lowered the barrier to entry now. It really begs the question: If they want to use commercial technology, do I really want to spend 5 grand on a single device that operates on Band 14? Or, do I want to spend $500 and have someone build me the equivalent of a Mi-Fi that I can connect to securely and continue to use my commercial, off-the-shelf iPhone, iPad, Android, Galaxy or whatever it is?”

Officers from Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties used the system to transmit encrypted voice, video and data among personnel in the field and in operations centers, according to the press release.

“The LTE system provided a private network, eliminating the chances of commercial network congestion. The specialized applications gave law enforcement an advantage, allowing police officers to use everyday devices in a strategic and tactical way,” Dale Moushon, a sergeant in the St. Petersburg police department’s intelligence unit, said in a statement. “While our traditional radio network provided primary communication among deployed officers, this technology enabled us to gather critical information for use in real-time decision making.”