newsletter logo  Page 1 2

FRIDAY - JULY 21, 2006 - ISSUE NO. 221

Dear friends of Wireless Messaging,

Hello everyone. As I write this, I am in the middle of a major thunderstorm. Lots of rain, thunder, and lightning. Severe damage is being reported in the next city to the west—Mt. Vernon, Illinois.

There is a lot of exciting news this week about the US Emergency Alerting System (EAS) and the possibility of involving paging in the coming upgrades.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing yesterday on the Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act (WARN Act), H.R. 5785. This legislation would establish a national alert system, which would carry emergency messages via as many forms of communications media as possible. The Subcommittee invited USA Mobility, Inc. to testify at the hearing. [source]

The testimony given by Vincent D. Kelly, President and Chief Executive Officer of USA Mobility, appears on page two of this issue. Congratulations to Vince and his team on a job well done. This should help the whole paging industry. (A rising tide lifts all boats.)

President George Bush has issued an Executive Order: Executive Order: Public Alert and Warning System

Now on to more news and views.

aapc logoemma logo
brad dye
Wireless Messaging Newsletter
  • VoIP
  • Wi-Fi
  • Paging
  • Wi-MAX
  • Telemetry
  • Location Services
  • Wireless Messaging
WIRELESS
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MESSAGING

This is my weekly newsletter about Wireless Messaging. You are receiving this because you have either communicated with me in the past about a wireless topic, or your address was included in another e-mail that I received on the same subject. This is not a SPAM. If you have received this message in error, or you are not interested in these topics, please click here, then click on "send" and you will be promptly removed from the mailing list.

iland internet sulutions This newsletter is brought to you by the generous support of our advertisers and the courtesy of iland Internet Solutions Corporation. For more information about the web-hosting services available from iland Internet Solutions Corporation, please click on their logo to the left.
 
A new issue of The Wireless Messaging Newsletter gets posted on the web each week. A notification goes out by e-mail to subscribers on most Fridays around noon central US time. The notification message has a link to the actual newsletter on the Internet. That way it doesn't fill up your incoming e-mail account.

There is no charge for subscription and there are no membership restrictions. Readers are a very select group of wireless industry professionals, and include the senior managers of many of the world's major Paging and Wireless Data companies. There is an even mix of operations managers, marketing people, and engineers—so I try to include items of interest to all three groups. It's all about staying up-to-date with business trends and technology. I regularly get reader's comments, so this newsletter has become a community forum for the Paging, and Wireless Data communities. You are welcome to contribute your ideas and opinions. Unless otherwise requested, all correspondence addressed to me is subject to publication in the newsletter and on my web site. I am very careful to protect the anonymity of those who request it.

NOTE: This newsletter is best viewed at screen resolutions of 800x600 (good) or 1024x768 (better). Any current revision of web browser should work fine. Please notify me of any problems with viewing. This site is compliant with XHTML 1.0 transitional coding for easy access from wireless devices. (XML 1.0/ISO 8859-1.)


MORE PAGES
There are two main pages in the newsletter now. In the top right-hand corner of this page you will see: “Page 1
 2.” This indicates that you are on page one and that you can click on the “2” (because it is underlined) to go to page two. When you are on page two you will see: Page 1 2.” And, at the end of page one there is a link to page two.



 


AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PAGING CARRIERS

aapc logo AAPC Bulletin
www.pagingcarriers.org • 866-301-2272
The Voice of US Paging Carriers

Join us for Enterprise Wireless 2006
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AAPC, in an effort to seek new alliances and wireless opportunities for its membership is pleased to join the USMSS, Inc. as a co-sponsor of the upcoming Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) fall event. 

Enterprise Wireless Alliance a proven wireless advocate since 1953 with membership that includes over 2,100 enterprise wireless companies, dealers and trade associations, primary focus is to assist enterprise business users, dealers, service providers and technology manufacturers in the deployment of wireless communications solutions that promote corporate productivity and business results in the enterprise wireless space. 

Enterprise Wireless 2006 is expected to have more than 400 attendees and offers an exceptional program of regulatory updates, technology, compelling industry forecasts and expert speakers in what it takes to make wireless communications truly productive.

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Thanks to our Gold Vendor!
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Thanks to our Silver Vendors!
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Thanks to our Bronze Vendors!
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  • DX Radio Systems, Inc.
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AAPC Headquarters
441 N. Crestwood Drive
Wilmington, NC 28405
Tel: 866-301-2272
E-mail: info@pagingcarriers.org
Web: www.pagingcarriers.org
AAPC Regulatory Affairs Office
Suite 250
2154 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007-2280
Tel: 202-223-3772
Fax: 202-315-3587
AAPC BULLETIN

FEATURED ADVERTISERS SUPPORTING THE NEWSLETTER

Advertiser Index

AAPC—American Association of Paging Carriers  InfoRad, Inc.
Advanced RF Communications  Ira Wiesenfeld
Advantra—INILEX   Minilec Service, Inc.
Aquis Communications, Inc. Nighthawk Systems, Inc.
Ayrewave Corporation  Northeast Paging
    NotePage Inc.
    Outr.net
CONTEL Costa Rica  ParkMagic
    Preferred Wireless
CVC Paging  Prism Paging
Daniels Electronics  Product Support Services
Daviscomms USA  Ron Mercer
EMMA—European Mobile Messaging Association  Texas Association of Paging Services
    TH Communications
Global Fax Network Services  UCOM Paging
GTES LLC  Unication USA
Hark Systems  USA Mobility, Systems Application Division
Heartland Communications  WiPath Communications
HMCE, Inc.  Zetron Inc.

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WIRELESS MESSAGING NEWS

Politicos push to update Cold War-era alert system

By Anne Broache
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Published: July 20, 2006, 12:39 PM PDT

WASHINGTON—In an age of omnipresent cell phone, Internet and BlackBerry users, why does the government rely primarily on analog television and radio to beam its national emergency alerts?

Politicians asked that question—and urged support for legislation aimed at expanding the Cold War-era system—at a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing here Thursday.

The hearing focused primarily on the Warning, Alert and Response Network, or WARN, Act, which was formally proposed last week by Illinois Republican John Shimkus and Maryland Democrat Albert Wynn. That bill calls for government and the private sector to devise a "voluntary" national alert system capable of transmitting messages "across the greatest possible variety of communications technologies," including wireless devices and the Internet.

"What we must strive for is an emergency system that leaves no one behind," said Michigan Republican Fred Upton, chairman of the telecommunications and Internet subcommittee.

The existing system, first deployed by President Harry Truman in 1951 with the intention of warning Americans about impending nuclear threats, requires national presidential alerts to be transmitted through analog radio, television and cable systems. Now called the Emergency Alert System, or EAS, it is also available for use by state and local governments on a voluntary basis.

The idea of expanding the warnings to other media appears to have escalated in popularity since Hurricane Katrina and the communications bungles that occurred during the storm. Last November, the FCC issued rules requiring that digital television, cable and audio broadcasters and satellite radio operators also deliver the alerts, beginning Dec. 31, 2006. Satellite television providers must meet that requirement by May 31, 2007.

The FCC itself is still contemplating whether the current structure of the EAS remains the best way to get the word out and is reviewing public comments on whether to deploy a new type of system, such as a satellite or Internet-based mechanism, Julius Knapp, acting chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, told the politicians. A recent executive order from President Bush and a report by an independent FCC panel reviewing communications during Katrina have also called for improvements.

The WARN Act, for its part, would not explicitly require the messages to be sent to devices like cell phones and e-mail accounts, because "voluntary, incentive market-based competitive products (do) a better job of encouraging full deployment," Shimkus said.

Instead, details would be worked out by a new government office and a working group composed of federal, state and local government representatives and experts from industries related to the system. That working group would have a year from the law's passage to recommend guidelines, technological standards and other protocols, for any new alert systems.

That idea drew applause from Christopher Guttman-McCabe, a vice president at CTIA-The Wireless Association, who said, "The initial service must be approached with caution, as limits and concerns about capacity and content might arise during an actual emergency."

He endorsed the WARN Act's "sensible" working-group approach, saying he worried that if the industry doesn't play an active role in setting standards for an expanded system, wireless phone users and manufacturers could run the risk of having to swap out billions of dollars worth of handsets that don't work with the EAS.

Others on the panel, including the sheriff of Prince George's County, Md., and representatives from a large pager company, a trade association for public television stations, and a low-power radio project, said they approved of the bill but would prefer that an expanded system be mandatory.

After all, a number of companies already make and sell products that can send out mass warnings, some witnesses told the politicians.

At the hearing, John Lawson, chief executive officer of the Association of Public Television Stations, carried out a live demonstration of how public radio stations can transmit emergency alerts to various media. After Lawson contacted an off-site Federal Emergency Management Agency representative, a red ticker reading "This is a test of the digital emergency alert system," appeared on a computer screen shown on televisions in the hearing room. Committee Chairman Upton reported that the same message had been sent to his BlackBerry, which had apparently been added to the test distribution list.

"We are doing this with commercial off-the-shelf technology," Lawson said. "There's nothing really exotic about this."

Some have nonetheless criticized the alert network as yet another expensive government undertaking that doesn't have the same necessity in an era of readily available news. The system was never activated during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, even in the New York and Washington metropolitan areas, for instance. And local and state governments failed to activate it for Hurricane Katrina.

Particularly in rural areas, "most (broadcasters) just went on the air full-time, and that in many cases was more productive than a sometimes garbled EAS message traveling in a chain from station to station," Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, said at the hearing, though he acknowledged it was important to build "redundancy" into the alert system.

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

Source: c|net News.com


US Air Force Approves Statement of Capability for Sanswire Flight Testing

PALMDALE, Calif.—(BUSINESS WIRE)—July 20, 2006--GlobeTel Communications Corp.'s (AMEX:GTE) wholly owned subsidiary, Sanswire Networks LLC, has been granted a Statement of Capability (SOC) by the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) of the United States Air Force, permitting Sanswire to flight test its Sanswire 2 high altitude airship technology demonstrator. Sanswire began to seek approval for the SOC in February of this year. NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, also located at Edwards, will provide meteorological services to the Air Force Flight Test Center in support of Sanswire's flight test effort.

The flight tests will occur at Edwards Air Force Base in California's high desert. It is planned that flight tests may extend through the fourth quarter of 2006. The Sanswire airship is scheduled to fly several test sorties at Edwards Air Force Base Range after the successful completion of tethered flights.

"We are now about to start the flight test program for the Sanswire 2 Airship, our Technology Demonstrator. These test flights will begin after the replacement carbon composite structure is received from our suppliers as described in the July 17 press release," stated Bob Jones, Sanswire's President.

Timothy Huff, CEO of GlobeTel Communications, stated, "I view this as a significant step toward our goals and I applaud Bob and his team on obtaining the approval for the SOC."

About Sanswire
Sanswire is developing a Wireless Broadband Network utilizing high-altitude airships called stratellites, which are similar to satellites but stationed in the stratosphere instead of in orbit. Stratellites will be used to provide wireless voice, video, and data services. The Stratellite is being designed and tested to operate at an altitude of between 55,000 and 65,000 feet utilizing onboard Guidance and Navigation Control (GN&C) to achieve its on-station position.

At an altitude of only 13 miles, each Stratellite will have clear line-of-site to an entire major metropolitan area and should allow subscribers to easily communicate in "both directions" using readily available wireless devices. Each Stratellite will have hybrid electric motors powered by solar cells, other state-of-the-art power generation systems and energy storage technologies.

In addition to Sanswire's Wireless Broadband Network, proposed telecommunications uses include cellular, 3G/4G mobile, MMDS, paging, fixed wireless telephony, HDTV and others. For more information, please go to http://www.sanswire.com or http://www.globetel.net.

Certain statements in this release constitute forward-looking statements or statements which may be deemed or construed to be forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The words "forecast," "project," "intend," "expect," "should," "would," and similar expressions and all statements, which are not historical facts, are intended to identify forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements involve and are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which could cause the Company's actual results, performance (finance or operating) or achievements to differ from future results, performance (financing and operating) or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements.

Contacts
For Sanswire Networks LLC, Palmdale
Robert Bleckman, 954-775-1427

Source: BusinessWire


xG® Technology Announces Nationwide Deployment Program of Mobile VoIP

DRAFT 7.13.06 v2

Company to Award Exclusive Territories for Regional Carriers throughout the United States

Sarasota, Fla. – July 17, 2006 – xG® Technology, LLC today announced the launch of a nationwide deployment program of xMax™, the first ever mobile Voice over IP (VoIP) service.  Starting today, the company is accepting applications for its xMax Domestic Dealer Program and will award exclusive territories to regional carriers for deployment of mobile VoIP services.  The first systems will be online in the first quarter of 2007.

“xMax provides an unprecedented opportunity for regional ISPs, CLECs, local communications carriers and entrepreneurs by reducing the cost of deploying wireless broadband to the point where they can compete with traditional communications companies,” said Rick Mooers, Chairman and CEO of xG Technology.  “With xG Technology, an xMax regional carrier could deliver a carrier-grade quality mobile VoIP service for thousands of dollars, not the millions that other technologies require in capital network and spectrum licensing costs.”

Leveraging xG Technology’s patented technology, xMax delivers the industry’s first true mobile VoIP with unsurpassed speed, reach and ease of deployment.  By using unlicensed wireless spectrum, xMax eliminates the need for multi-million dollar licensed airwaves and, on average, delivers three times the range of other wireless technologies with comparable power and antenna height. 

The xMax Domestic Dealer Program presents regional service providers with the opportunity to deploy a city-wide mobile VoIP service to subscribers with lower cost, higher quality, and greater coverage than existing technologies that are limited to hotspot coverage only.  “Preliminary response has been tremendous,” said Frank Peake, head of Sales and Marketing.  “Competitive providers that are interested in reaching their customers directly rather than relying on incumbent providers’ networks have shown particular interest in locking up exclusive territories.”

By curbing the expensive start-up and operational costs typically associated with the communications industry, xMax provides for the first all-IP networks to be built economically and profitably from the ground up.  In addition, the xMax system will in time expand from mobile VoIP to mobile broadband.

Mooers added, “With our program, xG Technology will be rolling out xMax on a region-by-region basis with the end goal of a ubiquitous xMax mobile VoIP service across the U.S.”

About xMax Domestic Dealer Program

xG Technology provides its dealers with a comprehensive mobile VoIP carrier model.

Key features of the program include:

To request an exclusive territory application, please visit www.xgtechnology.com or contact Frank Peake at (941) 954-8701 or via e-mail at frankp@xgtechnology.com. Applications will be accepted and considered on a rolling basis until all territories are assigned.

About xG Technology
xG Technology is changing the fundamental building blocks, capabilities and economics of the communications industry.  Its patented technologies can be applied to almost any type of communication, be it wired or wireless – voice, data or video. The company’s first commercial offering xMax delivers true mobile VoIP with unsurpassed speed, reach and ease of deployment.  Privately held, xG Technology is based in Sarasota, Florida.  For additional information, visit www.xgtechnology.com.

###

Contact:Tim Ayers
Ayers Associates
(202) 857-9734
tim@ayersassociates.net 
Shari Wong
Ogilvy Public Relations
(202) 729-4253
shari.wong@ogilvypr.com  

Source: Hal Mordkofsky at (202) 828-5520 or halmor@bloostonlaw.com


APTS Names SpectraRep Systems Integrator for Digital EAS

Date posted: 2006-07-18

A subsidiary of BIA Financial Network says it’s been chosen by the Association of Public Television Stations as a systems designer and integrator and project manager for the national Digital Emergency Alert System program, a wireless data delivery system for EAS.

APTS and the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency are combining their efforts on the program, tracked by FEMA’s Office of National Security Coordination. Those involved say the DEAS system will deliver broadband multimedia consisting of audio, video and multiple file attachments, as well as distribute alerts by e-mail, cell phones, text messaging devices, digital signage and other systems.

As the systems integrator for DEAS, SpectraRep, part of BIAfn, will be responsible for overall systems engineering, software development and logistics management.

In 2004, FEMA signed an agreement with APTS to conduct a Digital Emergency Alert System—National Capital Region Pilot Project. The pilot was launched to demonstrate how public television’s digital infrastructure could be used to support distribution of presidential messages to the public and of digital EAS messages to TVs, radios, personal computers and wireless networks.

SpectraRep provided systems design, integration and project support for the pilot DEAS system, which was concentrated in the national capital region. In 2005, APTS selected the firm to support the second phase of the pilot, which included extended operations and testing with 23 public TV stations in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Source: Radio World Online


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Prism Paging

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Unication USA

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  Unication USA
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Hark Technologies

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Wireless Communication Solutions

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Hark Technologies

Talking Through Disasters: The Federal Role in Emergency Communications

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.

July 17, 2006

From September 11, 2001, to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Congress and the Bush Administration have wrestled with the challenge of improving emergency management communications. An unprecedented federal spending spree has yielded scant progress, however, and Washington’s programs should be scrapped. It is unlikely that they will ever be able to achieve, either efficiently or effectively, the goal of creating the kind of emergency communication systems the nation needs to respond to national disasters.

The right approach would include adhering to a set of policies that promote effective public–private sharing of the emergency management electromagnetic spectrum, create a national capability to deploy a wide-area emergency management communications network for catastrophic disasters, and establish coherent national leadership for emergency response communications.

What Is Being Done?

In the rush to enhance emergency management communications after 9/11, the government’s solution has been to throw money at the problem, mostly through a variety of federal grants.[1] The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the Wireless Public Safety Interoperable Communications Program (SAFECOM), but SAFECOM has very limited authority either to oversee and coordinate federal, regional, and state efforts or to direct funding.

SAFECOM was an E-government project initiated by the Office of Management and Budget before the department was created.[2] By some estimates, SAFE COM programs will require over 20 years and $40 billion to achieve a national interoperable emergency communications system.[3] Likewise, a proposed National Integrated Network that would bring together federal law enforcement agents from the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Treasury into a single wireless infrastructure may take 15 years to build with a price tag estimated at up to $10 billion. [4]

In short, the federal government is spending a great deal of money on projects that are not well-coordinated.

Throwing money at the problem is a troubling strategy. The government’s record with information technology acquisition and implementation is poor. Typically, programs lack clear requirements, as well as strong executive leadership, and underestimate the time, money, and human capital necessary to achieve what is needed. Federal efforts to promote more effective emergency management communications show little promise of doing better.

What Is Required?

Emergency responders—the millions of law enforcement, fire, medical, public services, and volunteer groups and private-sector assets that save lives and property in the aftermath of disasters—need communications that have assured:

Most communications experts agree that there is no “silver bullet” solution that can address all these needs. They all concur, however, that the technologies needed to provide the right services exist today. Commercial off-the-shelf technologies, such as cellular service, video-streaming, and Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP), are robust and mature. The challenge is applying them to the needs of responders.

What Is the Priority?

Enormous confusion persists about what Washington should be doing to support the establishment of more effective communications for the nation’s responders. The simplistic and often-repeated mantra that responders need “interoperable” communications fails to describe the real requirements.[5] A better approach is needed.

Congress and the Bush Administration are right to focus on the communications requirements of responders, but they first need to understand the real needs in order to foster useful and affordable solutions. There are three significant challenges that present themselves in almost every large-scale disaster:[6]

Effective communications can be of significant help in addressing all of these issues by getting the right information to the right person at the right time.

Interoperable radios are one means by which to share information, but they are not always the best, the most efficient, or the most effective. Not all responders need to talk to each other. In fact, having too many users (fire and police, for example) sharing a communications network can overload a system, slowing coordination or sowing confusion. Pursuing interoperability as an end in itself is a bad strategy, as is spending vast amounts of money on capabilities that are not essential, not appropriate, or perhaps not even needed.

Addressing the most serious problems requires more sophisticated solutions than simply demanding vast amounts of federal tax dollars for interoperable communications, and deciding how the federal government can best address communications shortfalls requires understanding Washington’s proper role. Responding to emergencies is primarily a state and local government mission.[7]

The federal government should therefore focus on the tasks that only Washington can perform. Only the federal government can integrate the efforts of local, state, regional, and private-sector assets into a national response system that enables the nation as a whole to support local communities in the event of a disaster. It is Washington’s job to ensure the means and capacity for all jurisdictions to “plug” into a national system. Additionally, the federal government should concentrate on responding to catastrophic disasters that put tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in property at risk—dangers that would overwhelm the capacity of any state or local government.

With regard to emergency management communications, creating a national response network and responding to catastrophic disasters should define where Washington puts its priority effort. There are three aspects to emergency management communications:

Clearly, Washington should focus on the second two, which are consistent with the federal mandate of creating a national system and responding to catastrophic disasters.

What Are the Best Policies?

Federal emergency management communications effort should be focused exclusively on the highest federal priorities—building the capacity for jurisdictions across the country to share critical information, act in a collaborative manner, and operate even when normal telecommunications systems are wiped out or overwhelmed.

Even with the right priorities, however, it will be difficult for the federal government to enhance the role it plays unless it adopts policies that address the major obstacles to building better capabilities. These policies include the following.

Policy #1: Put First Things First

Wireless communications will form the backbone of any emergency communications system. In a wireless system, information is transmitted over parts of the electromagnetic spectrum rather than through wire lines or cables. This is important because in a disaster, infrastructure such as phone lines or switching trunks might be disrupted.

Additionally, responders may need information in places where there are no fixed communications systems available. In these cases, the federal government plays a significant role. The electromagnetic spectrum that carries wireless communications is managed by the federal government. Some is auctioned for commercial use. Other spectrum is allocated for public purposes. Current federal policies do not facilitate creating a national emergency network or building the capacity for responding to catastrophic disasters.

Federal, state, and local public safety agencies already have a large allocation of spectrum for emergency responders. The problem is that the allocation is scattered throughout the frequency band, which is grossly inefficient. Compared to the commercial use of the spectrum, emergency response networks carry a much smaller number of transactions with only an intermittent surge in demand. As a result, bandwidth is significantly underutilized.

In turn, local jurisdictions manage their spectrum by breaking allocations into smaller pools of channels for each individual agency (such as giving fire departments in neighboring communities their own dedicated channels). Further splitting the spectrum exacerbates the inefficiency of underutilization. In many cases, federal, state, and local responders do not even have the capacity to share spectrum when they are all working in the same region and responding to the same crisis.[8]

The commercial space uses the spectrum about 20 times more efficiently than governments use it.[9] The spectrum licensed to federal, state, and local public safety users supports fewer than 3 million users across the U.S. In contrast, commercial operators (such as Sprint and T-Mobile) support about 80 million users in a comparable amount of spectrum. Additionally, the commercial networks provide both voice and high-speed data. Most public safety networks carry voice service only.

With a relatively small number of users, the emergency management spectrum holds little attraction for private-sector service providers. There is virtually no incentive for private-sector investment. Economies of scale cannot be used to spur investments, to innovate, and to reduce costs. However, that could change if federal policies created commercial opportunities.

Policy #2: Open Emergency Management Frequencies as Dual-Use Spectrum

The government should provide the private sector with opportunities to offer commercial services in bandwidth that currently is reserved for public safety agencies. In turn, the private sector could invest in building up capacity for emergency services to operate within the spectrum and provide state-of-the-art, low-cost, secure services and guaranteed access during disaster situations. Prohibitions against sharing the public safety spectrum should be eliminated, and federal agencies should have greater flexibility in deciding how to share, sell, or barter spectrum to obtain the emergency communications services they need from the private sector.

Legacy Investments. Even if responders shared spectrum with the private sector, this would not completely solve the problem. For decades, public safety agencies have deployed a plethora of technologies, much of them outdated compared to what is commercially available. Many public safety agencies have technology that is so old that it is not compatible with commercial systems.

In part, the public safety spectrum is organized to accommodate the older, narrow-band technologies. This means that the frequencies available for emergency services cannot support high-speed data transmissions like streaming video, VoIP, or large amounts of digital data such as building floor plans, information on dealing with hazardous materials, or various kinds of geospatial data like traffic and wind patterns.

While the responders’ legacy systems have short comings, it is unrealistic to believe that these systems can be scrapped wholesale, with the federal government paying equipment, training, and replacement costs. By some estimates, there are over 44,000 local and state agencies that each have their own unique systems and requirements.[10]

Policy #3: Don’t Send Money; Set Standards

Rather than trying to fix the problem, the federal government’s first priority should be to keep it from getting worse. National standards should be set that would migrate systems over time into a common, open architecture that is compatible with industry standards and could utilize commercial off-the-shelf technologies to provide responders with state-of-the-art systems. These would enable responders to talk to one another, utilizing the kind of bandwidth necessary for robust communications.

For example, the problems hindering voice interoperability could be addressed as agencies procured networks built on a common IP-based standard. IP-based systems would allow interoperability across multiple agencies, jurisdictions, and geographic areas, as well as with commercial, cellular-based networks, eliminating the need to build expensive, dedicated, private proprietary networks.

In addition to standards for communications systems, standards must be established for the recovery and reconstitution of critical infrastructure that supports these networks. This should extend to assets that support critical risk communications for average citizens, such as public warning systems and emergency services like 911.

Land-Based Systems. Current public safety net works are based primarily on mobile, land-based communications, such as the radios in police cars and fire trucks. In turn, these report to fixed, land-based sites such as police stations and emergency operations centers. These networks often prove inadequate to support robust responses to large-scale disasters. They are optimized for voice communications, lacking the capacity to exploit cut ting-edge technologies like broadband services. Emergency service networks also have limited power and range. Ground-based signals can be masked by high buildings, underground subways, and terrain features such as hills and forests.

Additionally, ground-based signals are vulnerable. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina offers numerous examples of flooding that wiped out roads, cell towers, and fire stations, or of communications that went out because generators ran out of fuel or radios lacked fresh batteries. The attack on the World Trade Center destroyed New York City’s emergency operations center. Overall, land-based systems are inadequate to “scale-up” to meeting the needs of responding to catastrophic disasters.

On the other hand, non–terrestrially based systems remain highly resilient in the face of disasters. This proved particularly true in the aftermath of Katrina. Satellite-based systems and pagers remained dependable despite the devastation.

There needs to be a supplement to the land-based systems used by local emergency responders, particularly for large-scale disasters that cover a wide area and require jurisdictions to coordinate their activities when much of the supporting infrastructure may be destroyed or unusable. This system should be non–territorially based, using either air or space-borne platforms, or a combination of both. Here, it is appropriate for the federal government to step up and provide the capability to establish an emergency ad hoc, wide-area wireless network to support both existing (voice radio) and emerging (VoIP, geospatial data, and video) capabilities.

Policy #4: Buy Services, Not Infrastructure or Technology

Rather than attempting to develop and deploy a communications architecture along with all the hardware (e.g., planes, unmanned aerial vehicles, aerostats, or satellites) and software, the federal government should buy the services it needs from the private sector. In addition, Washington should not specify particular technological solutions. Government should specify performance needs and let the private sector figure out how to best meet the challenge. This will provide cheaper capabilities sooner and allow agencies to upgrade quickly as the commercial sector brings new products and services online.

Who Should Lead?

There is too much federal leadership in disaster emergency management communications. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration manages the spectrum for use by federal agencies. The Federal Communications Commission, however, manages other spectrum allocations and recently established a Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to address public safety, homeland security, national security, emergency management and preparedness, and disaster management issues.

In addition, DHS allocates homeland security grants and houses the office that administers SAFECOM and the National Communications System, which is responsible for the federal emergency communications system. The Departments of Justice and Treasury, along with DHS, are responsible for administering the National Integrated Network. Other federal departments, including the Departments of Defense and Interior, also have equities in domestic emergency communications management planning.

In other words, a lot of federal stakeholders are at the table, and all of these agencies have important roles to play. Yet the current organization of federal activities has proved unsatisfactory.[11] It is unrealistic to give all the responsibility to one agency or to put it in charge of an unwieldy interagency effort. A more organized effort is necessary.

Policy #5: Match Missions and Resources to Priorities

Congress should establish legislative mandates for specific federal agencies to perform specific tasks, setting clear deliverables and reasonable milestones for their achievement. Legislation not only would serve as a contract between leaders in Congress and the Bush Administration on the way forward, but also would act as a guide to congressional appropriators, ensuring that budget priorities match the priority of effort. The various offices and programs within DHS that are responsible for assorted aspects of communications planning need to be aligned under the appropriate authority in the department (e.g., the Undersecretaries for Preparedness and Science and Technology and the Director of Operations Coordination).

Road Map to the Future

If Congress and the Bush Administration are serious about improving the emergency responder capabilities nationwide, they need to put these principles into practice. That will require:

Taking these steps now will meet the nation’s short-term needs for building a truly national responder network that can deal with large-scale disasters. It will also establish the foundation for long-term solutions that can exploit the communications revolution that is occurring in the marketplace.

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. The author would like to thank James L. Gattuso, Senior Research Fellow in Regulatory Policy in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, and Laura P. Keith, a Research Assistant in the Allison Center, for their assistance with this paper.


[1] In a May 24, 2006, report by the Office of Grants and Training Preparedness Directorate, the Department of Homeland Security shows that from 2003 to 2005, DHS spent just over $5.6 billion on interoperable communication equipment, with $1.8 billion going toward procurement of this equipment for its interoperable communications improvement programs. See U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Grants Training Preparedness Directorate, “Interoperable Communications Technical Assistance Program,” May 24, 2006, at http://www.search.org/conferences/2006interop/agenda/presentations/Keith%20Young%20-%20DOJCOPS-AUSTIN.ppt [page 3] (June 26, 2006). In addition, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) created new grant programs, including $1 billion to assist public safety agencies in the acquisition, deployment, or training for the use of interoperable communications systems, to be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) but requiring the NTIA to consult with DHS in its implementation of the program. For a copy of the DRA, see “Deficit Reduction Act of 2005,” S. 1932, January 3, 2006, at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=109_cong_bills&docid=f:s1932enr.txt.pdf (June 26, 2006).

[2]. U.S. Government Accountability Office, Federal Leader ship Needed to Facilitate Interoperable Communications Between First Responders, GAO–04–1057T, September 2004, at http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d041057thigh.pdf (June 16, 2006).

[3]. David Boyd, “SAFECOM: Improving Public Safety Wireless Communications and Interoperability,” March 17, 2004, p. 12, at http://www.interoperability.publicsafety.virginia.gov/Library/PDFs/SAFECOM-ImprovingWirelessComms.pdf, and Karen D. Schwartz, “Straight Talk,” Government Executive, October 1, 2004, at http://www.govexec.com/features/1004-01/1004-01managetech.htm (July 11, 2005).

[4] Alice Lipowicz, “Hurricanes a Boost for Integrated Wireless Networks,” Washington Technology, Vol. 20, No. 24 (December 12, 2005), at http://www.washingtontechnology.com/news/20_24/federal/27577-1.html (June 16, 2006).

[5] Interoperable communications are those that involve “the ability of public safety agencies to talk to one another via radio communications systems to exchange voice and/or data with one another on demand, in real-time, when needed.” National Task Force on Interoperability, Why Can’t We Talk? Working Together to Bridge the Communications Gap to Save Lives: A Guide for Public Officials, February 2003, p. 5, at http://www.safecomprogram.gov/NR/rdonlyres/322B4367-265C-45FB-8EEA-BD0FEBDA95A8/0/Why_cant_we_talk_NTFI_Guide.pdf (July 11, 2006).

[6] Mark Sauter and James Jay Carafano, Homeland Security: A Complete Guide to Understanding, Preventing, and Surviving Terrorism (New York: McGraw Hill, 2005), pp. 308–309.

[7] James Jay Carafano, “Improving the National Response to Catastrophic Disaster,” testimony before the Committee on Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, September 15, 2005, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/HomelandDefense/tst091505a.cfm (July 11, 2006).

[8] Although the FCC has provided 50 MHz in the 4.9 GHz band for public safety broadband applications, this spectrum is primarily suited for “hot spot,” on-scene communications. It is not viable to support wide-area communications because of its limited propagation characteristics. Public safety also has an allocation of 24 MHz for voice and wide-band applications in the 700 MHz band, but it is not allocated to support more advanced, mobile broadband/voice-over-Internet capabilities.

[9] See Gerald R. Faulhaber and David Faber, “Spectrum Management: Property Rights and the Commons,” undated, at http://assets.wharton.upenn.edu/~faulhabe/SPECTRUM_MANAGEMENTv51.pdf (July 12, 2006).

[10] David G. Boyd, testimony before the Committee on Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, November 6, 2003, at http://reform.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Boyd%20SAFECOM%20testimony.pdf (June 16, 2006).

[11] Homeland Security Presidential Directive–3 (HSPD–3) outlined a “Homeland Security Advisory System to provide a comprehensive and effective means to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist acts to Federal, State, and local authorities and to the American people.” See George W. Bush, “Homeland Security Presidential Directive–3,” March 11, 2003, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/03/20020312-5.html (July 11, 2006). HSPD–5 directed DHS to create a National Incident Management System (NIMS) to provide for “interoperability and compatibility” at all state and local levels, including communications and information systems for a common operating picture. See George W. Bush, “Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD–5,”February 28, 2003, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030228-9.html (July 11, 2006). The directives and their subsequent NIMS do not clearly define either the state, local, and federal roles or problems surrounding public safety communication.

Source: The Heritage Foundation



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