700 MHz Broadband for Mission Critical Data

Dec 15, 2011

A recent workshop on Canadian Public Safety Interoperability held true to its theme “From Results to Success” with numerous speakers explaining to the over 300 ­delegates how their interoperability efforts are now bearing fruit. However, one major issue that remains to be resolved is that of 700 MHz Broadband for Mission Critical Data. The entire country awaits Industry Canada’s decision on what to do with this “beachfront property.”

The annual workshop is hosted by CITIG, the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group. Its founding members include the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and the Emergency Medical Services Chiefs of Canada, along with the Canadian Police Research Centre.

A major focus of the workshop was to explain the 700 MHz issue. A wide range of speakers, from Minister of Public Safety Canada Vic Toews, to Deputy Chief Charles Dowd from NYPD, clearly articulated just why the proper allocation of this spectrum is a “once in a lifetime opportunity for public safety practitioners in Canada and along the border.”

The reason, as they explained, is that if Industry Canada agrees to “set aside” this spectrum for public safety, it will mean that emergency responders – supported by all three Chief’s Associations, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, all Provinces & Territories and most Federal government departments engaged in public safety – will have the same 20 MHz of broadband spectrum available from coast to coast to coast and along its Southern border.

In almost every major incident in recent history, when first responders attempted to use mobile devices, those systems were blocked due to congestion. This is because everyone – from the teenager uploading videos to YouTube, to the lifesaving responder trying to share information with the police or hospital – is using the SAME spectrum.

One incredibly supportive partner to public safety during this effort has been CATA, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance. CATA attended all five of the CITIG National Workshops, provided key support and expertise, and made this ­particular issue a priority for its members.

This issue is so important to Canada that the senior officials responsible for Emergency Management joined with the Tri-Service Chiefs Associations and CITIG to include a specific Action Plan on 700 MHz in the Communications Interoperability Strategy for Canada (CISC). This Strategy, formally adopted by all Federal, Provincial and Territorial governments in January 2011, is designed to be the roadmap for public safety interoperability In Canada.

Readers may find more information about 700 MHz at Action700.ca, a website created by the Chiefs’ Associations and CITIG. It provides briefing notes, sample presentations and general information about this critical issue. Interested parties should also mark their calendars for the next Canadian Public Safety Interoperability Workshop, where CITIG will again focus on this, and other critical interoperability issues. It is scheduled for December 2012 in Toronto. Details will soon be on the CITIG website at www.citig.ca.

A massive amount of work is going on behind the scenes to prepare for the Industry Canada decision (for which no release date has yet been set). If this ­spectrum is set aside for public safety, issues around governance, business models, standards and a wide range of related issues will need to be resolved as quickly as possible. Let’s do it right.  

© FrontLine Security 2011