Public services pull together for spectrum

Joseph Waring
06 Jun 2012

Public safety agencies are starting to join forces with other public sectors, such as airport authorities, transport systems and utilities, to gain more of a critical mass when lobbying governments for additional broadband spectrum, which most would prefer to auction off to commercial carriers to generate revenue.

This was a key issue raised at the TETRA World Congress in Dubai last month. TETRA, for those not familiar with the standard, is private-trunked radio used by the public-safety sector as well as industries such and transport and energy.

Jolly Wong, chief telecom engineer with Hong Kong Police Force's information system unit, told that his strategy is to look at all essential public services, not just the police but public transport - as it moves to fully automatic operations (FAO) or driverless trains, which need video surveillance - as well as public utilities with the move to smart grids.

"If it's only public safety, it will be hard to justify our fair share. If all these public services come together, it will give us more influence to get our fair share of spectrum," Wong said.

In the US utilities are being encouraged to partner with critical-infrastructure providers to gain access to the broadband frequencies that support smart grids. Together they gain financial clout and reduce the required capex and opex each has to cover.

The TETRA sector is tiny compared to commercial mobile networks -- with fewer than 2.5 million users globally (under three million expected by 2022) and device and infrastructure revenue of about $1 billion. By sharing spectrum and networks with users from other sectors, public-safety operators will have greater economies of scale, which can bring down prices.

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