July Forum: 700 MHz Broadband For Mission-Critical Public Safety Data

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” While this phrase often makes us think of a scam or sparks memories of timeshare-property pressure sales, in this case it is very true. Canadian emergency responders have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity...


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“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” While this phrase often makes us think of a scam or sparks memories of timeshare-property pressure sales, in this case it is very true. Canadian emergency responders have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to obtain 700 MHz broadband spectrum from Industry Canada. This will allow responders the needed spectrum to transfer mission critical data to and from scenes. Once this spectrum is gone, it will be gone forever.

Partnerships in the field of emergency response and management are critical – and never more than in today’s challenging economic times. With that in mind, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), Canadian Fire Chiefs Association (CFCA) and Emergency Medical Services Chiefs of Canada (EMSCC) are leading the charge for a nationwide public safety broadband system for mission critical data.

With advances in technology, Canadian responder agencies will have an increasing need to access data and video networks during all emergency incidents. Law enforcement agencies will need access to streaming video, surveillance networks capable of identifying known terrorists through the use of video analytics, criminal records, automated license plate recognition and biometric technologies including mobile fingerprint and iris identification to prevent and respond to criminal activities. Fire services will need access to building blue prints, in-building 3D, and personal health-monitoring sensors and GPS tracking systems for their staff in order to save lives. Emergency medical services will need access to telemedicine, high-resolution video and ultrasound, and patient records to reduce the time it takes to deliver medical services at the scene of an incident such as a car crash on a highway.

In addition to profession-specific technology, these agencies will require information sharing capabilities in real time for all unified responses. Critical-infrastructure service providers will need to be able to coordinate their responses to restore power and telecommunications services during large-scale incidents. Governments at all levels across Canada and cross-border with our U.S. counterparts need access to situational awareness information, including from wireless sensors (i.e., flood data) during large-scale incidents to coordinate mitigation, response and recovery efforts. Obviously, the key here, as always, is the planning phase that we are just commencing now.

All these applications and services depend greatly on the amount of spectrum that is available for public safety broadband services – they require considerable bandwidth and speed that is currently not available. Future networks must be built with public safety requirements in mind.

On Dec. 8, 2010, during the Fourth Canadian Public Safety Interoperability Workshop, the presidents of Canada’s three major chiefs associations announced the creation of the Tri-Services Special Purpose Committee on 700 MHz Broadband for Mission-Critical Public Safety Data. The creation of the committee is in direct response to Industry Canada’s recent announcement of public consultations on the use of the 700 MHz band by commercial mobile services.

They have appointed three representatives to the committee: I am representing the EMSCC and I am privileged to be working alongside two very experienced colleagues from partner agencies and associations, Superintendent Bill Moore of the Halifax Regional Police and the CACP and Division Chief Mike Sullivan of the Ottawa Fire Service, representing the CAFC. Together, the three of us have set in motion a mechanism to monitor and advise on the issue, inform stakeholders and identify responder spectrum needs and potential opportunities.

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