October 28, 2013, 7:30 PM — The U.S. moved one step closer to having a unified public safety network on Monday when the Federal Communications Commission approved the rules for using spectrum set aside for the system.
Also on Monday, the agency directed its Office of Engineering and Technology to start processing applications from vendors to have their equipment certified to operate in that spectrum.
The national network, which will operate in the prized 700MHz band, is intended to replace a patchwork of systems used by about 60,000 public safety agencies around the country. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) would operate the system and deliver services on it to those agencies. The move is intended to enable better coordination among first responders and give them more bandwidth for transmitting video and other rich data types.
The rules approved by the FCC include power limits and other technical parameters for operating in the band. Locking them down should help prevent harmful interference with users in adjacent bands and drive the availability of equipment for FirstNet's network, the agency said.
A national public safety network was recommended by a task force that reviewed the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the U.S. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 called for auctions of other spectrum to cover the cost of the network, which was estimated last year at US$7 billion.
The public safety network is required to cover 95 percent of the U.S., including all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. It must reach 98 percent of the country's population.