Verizon Wireless pitches plan to build public-safety network using 700
By Heather Forsgren Weaver
By Jeffrey Silva
Sep 6, 2006
WASHINGTON—Verizon Wireless is pitching a plan to build a nationwide
broadband public-safety network in the 700 MHz band, according to
sources familiar with the plan. The spectrum has already been allocated
to public safety as part of the transition to digital TV.
The Verizon Wireless plan envisions using 12 of the 24 megahertz set
aside for public safety to build a nationwide public-safety broadband
network. Verizon Wireless would augment its existing infrastructure as
necessary to give public-safety the coverage it needs and then would
extract rent from public-safety agencies across the country to use that
infrastructure. The spectrum, however, would not be shared with Verizon
Wireless’ commercial customers.
Verizon Wireless has met with top public-safety officials including the
Association of Public-safety Communications Officials, according to the
“APCO has no comment at this time,” said Robert Gurss, APCO director of
legal and government affairs, when asked about Verizon Wireless’ proposal.
Verizon Wireless said it cannot respond to a request for comment due to
the on-going auction for advanced wireless services spectrum.
The Verizon Wireless plan is strikingly similar to one proposed in the
spring by Cyren Call Communications Inc.
Cyren has asked Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to
set aside 30 megahertz of spectrum in the upper 700 MHz band for a
public-safety network that the wireless industry would build and share
with first responders. Cyren envisions a public-private partnership with
commercial operators that would underwrite network-infrastructure
deployments in the 700 MHz band. First responders and others would have
preferential access to the 30 megahertz during emergencies, but would
otherwise occupy a very small portion of the network capacity to satisfy
day-to-day public-safety requirements.
Congress has already designated 24 megahertz of the 700 MHz band for
public safety; the rest is to be auctioned. The Cyren Call plan would
allocate two 15-megahertz chunks—spectrum currently scheduled to be
auctioned—on either side of this 24-megahertz public-safety allocation
for its public-private partnership.
Rather than use the 30 megahertz of spectrum Congress wants auctioned,
the Verizon Wireless plan would focus on the 24 megahertz already
allocated to public safety.
It appears the Verizon Wireless plan would need congressional approval.
It is unclear whether Verizon Wireless plans to pay the federal
government for using public airwaves for commercial gain.
Cyren filed its plan with the FCC in April. The FCC has yet to act on
the Cyren petition.
Cyren has spent the summer lining up public-safety organizations to
endorse its plan. Cyren has been very careful to say it does not want to
touch the 24 megahertz of spectrum already allocated to public safety.
In various statements, public-safety officials have said public-safety
agencies need access to more than the 24 megahertz currently allocated
to public-safety; however, the Verizon Wireless plan seems to ignore
this. The carrier’s plan stands as a challenge to Cyren’s proposal.
This is not the first time Verizon Wireless has come up with a
public-safety plan for the 700 MHz band. Last year in the last hours of
a debate regarding setting a hard date for the DTV transition, Verizon
Wireless proposed Congress set the auction for 700 MHz channels during
the first quarter of 2007—two years before the spectrum will become
available. The idea was to sell the commercial spectrum earlier so that
public-safety would get quicker access to the revenue it is slated to
get from the auction receipts. The plan fell on deaf ears and Congress
set the auction date for no later than Jan. 28, 2008.
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