DHS looks to subscription model for public safety networks
Homeland Security Department researchers say they're after a solution that would permit public safety agencies to subscribe to a service permitting radio devices to utilize commercial cellular spectrum as well as public safety frequencies.
In a broad agency announcement dated Aug. 2, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate says it has $8 million to award for proof of concepts for an effort it dubbed DHS Next Generation Tactical Wireless Broadband.
The idea is to introduce a subscription model in order to reduce the network ownership and operating costs by distributing ownership expenses across a wider base than just public safety, the announcement states.
In order for that to be effective, however, DHS says the solution manufacturers will have to demonstrate that capabilities performed today over public safety land mobile networks can work with the same degree of low latency and high availability that can be done using commercial infrastructure.
The solution will also need to include the ability for network managers to manage radios and radio groups over the air and for the devices to seamlessly roam from one network to another.
A subscription model has the potential to be a "game changing approach," the announcement says, noting that the traditional model of owning the network infrastructure for public safety networks is expensive.
However, whether public safety can be convinced that commercial networks are robust enough for their needs is a different matter. Public safety last year defeated a Federal Communications Commission proposal to auction off a 10-megahertz portion of spectrum known as the D block to the private sector on the condition that public safety have priority access to the spectrum.
Public safety advocates said that private sector companies are unlikely to build a network to the level of robustness needed to guarantee public safety access in the event of a disaster nor prioritize infrastructure repair in remote areas where nonetheless public safety may need connectivity.
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