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GCN : April 2015
INTEROPERABLE COMM FIRSTNET When a vehicle turned up where it shouldn’t have dur- ing a ski competition in Col- orado in February, new mobile broad- band technology made the difference between a scramble by police to locate the vehicle and a quick, more targeted search from first responders. Using new LTE technology set up for the event, an officer put a marker on a map noting the vehicle’s location and then sent a screenshot of the map to about 200 other safety of- ficials in the area connected to the network via mobile devices. “ We had officers from out of the city area helping us, and rather than having to ask di- rections on the radio or look at their Google maps and figure out how to get there, they had that map sent over the LTE network and were able to respond to the scene,” said Jennifer Kirkland, operations support supervisor at the Vail, Colo., Public Safety Communications Center. “It saved time and resources.” The event in Vail was the 2015 Inter- national Ski Federation’s Alpine World Ski Championship, where Colorado public-safety agencies gathered to test drive the First Responder Network Au- thority’s (FirstNet) 700 MHz Band Class 14 Public Safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) Demonstration Network. The FirstNet wireless broadband net- work was created in 2012 by Congress in an effort to build the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband net- work dedicated to public safety. Con- struction of the network requires each state to have radio-based networking gear that can connect to FirstNet’s net- work core. In Vail, first responders were test- driving a range of applications support- ed the wireless LTE network, including video surveillance, situational aware- ness and photo applications. In fact, the network proved to be criti- cal to public safety officials’ ability to do their jobs when commercial networks faltered in handling the digital crush of more than 150,000 people at the event. “The [LTE] network performed ex- ceptionally well,” said Brian Shepherd, broadband program manager at the Colorado Office of Information Tech- nology. “ When commercial networks did degrade just due to multiple thou- sands of people in a one block square radius, we saw the public safety net- work remain stable, and we were able to provide good communications from Beaver Creek to Vail, which has histori- cally been a challenge.” The Eagle County, Colo., Sheriff’s Department and the Vail police and fire departments were involved in the broadband test, which was au- thorized for non-mission-critical uses. Meanwhile, networking firms brought in various compo- nents of the network. Sonim Technologies, a supplier of ultra-rugged mobile solutions provided 35 ruggedized devices for use in the demo, while up to 200 responders and public safety officers used their personal de- vices to access the network via Wi-Fi hot spot. In addition, four 2-by-3-foot General Dynamics eNodeB boxes were integrated into the nodes of a distributed antenna system that wire- less infrastructure firm Crown Castle had recently deployed in Vail. “ We essentially just integrated the Band Class 14 infrastructure into the current distributed antenna system that Crown Castle owns and operates,” Shepherd said. “Our goal was just to get devices into hands of end users and test the overall technology through the two- week-long event.” For the first time, responders were The wireless LTE network supported responders’ video, situational awareness, mapping and photo applications Colorado takes FirstNet for a test drive BY STEPHANIE KANOWITZ “One of the key takeaways, from my perspective, is that this technology is pretty much a need-to-have right now.” – BRIAN SHEPHERD, COLORADO OFFICE OF IT 28 GCN APRIL 2015 • GCN.COM FRANKMAY/APIMAGES 0415gcn_028-030.indd 28 3/30/15 9:36 AM