Motorola: Save the 700MHz spectrum for public safety

The 700MHz spectrum should be reserved for public safety organisations as video streaming becomes increasingly important for dealing with crisis situations, according to the communications vendor

The 700MHz spectrum should be reserved for public safety organisations as video streaming becomes increasingly important for crisis situations, according to [[xref: Motorola|Motorola distributors]] Solutions managing director, Gary Starr.

During the Queensland floods earlier this year, Brisbane City Council used Motorola’s Zeon Digital two-way radio network extensively. As communication services dropped out during the disaster, the radio network was crucial for coordinating emergency services, according to Starr.

With video becoming more prevalent, Starr expected video solutions to proliferate in the public safety sector especially during or after crisis situations.

“If you think about the floods or the earthquake in New Zealand, video would be good to assess damages to buildings and so on,” he said. “I think, for us, there will be more focus on developing business cases for video solutions.”

The goal would be to be stream videos from different cameras at a given location to a central point where analytics software would be able to scan images for anomalies such as changes superficial changes buildings, Starr said.

“Think about how many cameras are already out there in 7-Elevens, banks, councils and so on,” he said. “Police [abroad] have signed memorandums of understanding [MOUs] with these guys to get access to those cameras and even commandeer them in a crisis.

“Those cameras are out there but the question is how to get footage back to emergency services to analyse for anomalies.”

Streaming videos require bandwidth which is why public safety organisations are pushing hard to get a piece of the 700MHz digital dividend, which will be auctioned off by the Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) late next year.

Motorola secured a contract to build a public safety LTE network on the 700MHz band in San Francisco.

In Australia, public safety organisations are appealing to the Federal Government to reserve a piece of the spectrum for video data streaming purposes to assist in emergency services but they’re up against telcos and broadcasters that want the 700MHz band for commercial use, according to Starr.

“They want to build their own networks because they still need the capacity and hardening when they want to use video solutions when other networks fail,” he said. “There is a big debate going on with the telcos, broadcasters and public safety organisations over who needs the spectrum more and who can pay more money for it.”

Should public safety organisations fail to secure a piece of the 700MHz spectrum they can still use public networks offered by telco providers but it would be a sub-optimal choice, Starr said.

Public telco networks are susceptible to congestion particularly during major recreational events or crisis situations as a large number of people make phone calls at the same time.

“During those events, it’s hard enough to make a phone call let alone stream data,” he said. “That is just not good enough. Do we kick all those people off the network for public safety? They did pay for the access.”

Motorola is advocating for a combination of a public and private network. If the public safety agencies secure the desired spectrum, they can build a network in high density areas while roaming onto public elsewhere.

The 700MHz will be freed up in the second half of 2012 as Australia makes the switch from analogue to digital TV.