Magazine article National Defense

Bargain Price Spectrum: Nationwide Emergency Responder Network Remains in Limbo

Magazine article National Defense

Bargain Price Spectrum: Nationwide Emergency Responder Network Remains in Limbo

Article excerpt

The Federal Communications Commission has slashed the price for the D-block, a piece of 700 MHz spectrum set aside for emergency responders. D-Block is a chunk of the 700 MHz spectrum that analog television will no longer be using by next February.

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In September, the minimum bid was cut from $1.3 billion to $750 million.

If no single entity bids on the D-Block, new rules propose dividing the piece of spectrum into 58 different regions.

The FCC's plans are to have a private company build an emergency network that will ensure that police, firefighters and other first responders can communicate. The lack of interoperable communication devices among agencies became apparent during 9/11 and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The company would then sell its system to emergency service providers.

The public safety community had clamored for spectrum to call its own for years, but when the time came for the private sector to bid for the D-block, there was only one bid, which the FCC deemed as too low.

There is a range of options for such a network. Possibilities include a multi-band, multi-mode portable radio that is being tested by the office of interoperability and compatibility, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. There is also the P25 program, which is focused on developing standards that allow radios to interoperate regardless of the manufacturer. The office is also looking at Voice Over Internet Protocol, which is an Internet telephone for a PC, MAC or laptop. …

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