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Roberson Report: Commercial Networks Can Guarantee Priority Access to Public Safety

WASHINGTON, DC -- (Marketwire) -- 03/03/11 -- Roberson and Associates, a Chicago-based technology and management consultancy led by former Motorola and Alcatel-Lucent top technical executives, today released a comprehensive study that refutes criticisms that commercial networks cannot guarantee priority access to public safety users under congested conditions. The study further demonstrates that the sharing of commercial network bandwidth with dedicated public safety bandwidth confers significant, additional advantages to public safety users. The study, commissioned by Sprint and T-Mobile, comes at a critical time in the national debate over the fate of the block of 700 MHz spectrum known as the "D-Block," and the building of a nationwide, interoperable broadband wireless network for the nation's first responders.

"It is of the highest national priority to provide public safety agencies with a nationwide, interoperable, broadband wireless network in the 700 MHz frequency band," said President and CEO Dennis Roberson, a former Motorola CTO who is also currently Vice Provost and Research Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. "While some members of the public safety community have expressed concerns about using the D-Block on a shared basis, this study conclusively determines that there are no technical obstacles whatsoever to public safety users having priority access to a shared network with commercial carriers; indeed, there may also be significant advantages as well."

There is vigorous public debate about the amount of spectrum that public safety requires for broadband wireless. Regardless of the amount of spectrum made available on a dedicated basis, public safety will always need additional capacity beyond that available in an isolated network during extreme emergencies. The findings of the Roberson study provide fundamental data to all stakeholders by demonstrating how commercial broadband wireless networks, operating on a shared basis with a dedicated public safety network in the 700 MHz spectrum band, can meet public safety priority access requirements and provide transparent overflow capacity and enhanced geographic coverage when needed.

Key elements of the priority access method for public safety on a shared commercial network are:

  • Use of the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard by both the public safety and commercial networks.
  • Use of new priority mechanisms inherent to the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard. These mechanisms have not been available on any wireless networks to-date, and provide effective alternatives to the idea of "ruthless preemption" on legacy circuit-based networks.
  • Sharing of Radio Access Network (RAN) elements between the commercial network and dedicated public safety network, coupled with a Negotiated Service Agreement (NSA) between the commercial and public safety entities.
  • The dedicated public safety and commercial networks have their own Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Evolved Packet Core (EPC) entities.
  • Appropriate provisioning of the public safety and commercial user devices.

"LTE technology has clearly changed the landscape," said Ken Zdunek, a co-author of the study and VP and CTO of Roberson and Associates. "A dual Long Term Evolution (LTE) / Evolved Packet Core (EPC) architecture allows public safety officials to control and prioritize their own communications traffic on both the dedicated and shared commercial radio networks. This not only obviates any perceived need for proprietary roaming solutions, but also affords priority access and interoperability to public safety users that meets their requirements, and is clearly in the public interest." Zdunek also serves on the Federal Communications Commission's Emergency Response Interoperability Center/Public Safety Advisory Committee.

Deploying a commercial D-Block network in a shared manner with the public safety dedicated broadband network provides significant advantages for public safety users beyond the availability of additional bandwidth in emergency situations, including:

  • Faster and significantly cheaper build-out of the dedicated public safety network due to the sharing of radio network elements with the commercial provider.
  • Higher overall network capacity for the dedicated public safety network by leveraging a high cell-density, commercial radio access network build-out.
  • Extended geographic coverage due to the ability to utilize commercial networks wherever they exist.
  • Commercial economies of scale that provide public safety with early access to user devices with leading-edge capabilities, and at lower cost.

"We believe strongly that the priority access approach in this study is the most responsible way forward," said Roberson. "It shows that, in contrast to single-supplier approaches to public safety roaming onto commercial networks, a public safety requirements-driven approach is possible. Coupled with auctioning the D-Block, the approach allows operators to compete to provide public safety services, and leverages commercial resources to help public safety build a dedicated network. It is the best way for public safety to get the nationwide interoperable broadband network that they deserve, and enjoy the advantages of LTE technology and the lower costs of platforms with commercial volumes."

About Roberson and Associates

Roberson and Associates, LLC is a technology and management consulting company with government and commercial customers that provides services in the areas of RF spectrum management, RF measurements and analysis, and technology management. The organization was founded in 2008 and is composed of a group of select individuals with corporate and academic backgrounds from Motorola, Bell Labs, IITRI (now Alion), Emergency Response Interoperability Center Public Safety Advisory Committee (ERIC PSAC), independent consulting firms, and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Together the organization has over 200 years of the high technology management and technical leadership experience with a strong telecommunications focus.

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