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06 April 2015

California: Los Angeles Officials Halt Public-Safety LTE Network

A system is being created to coordinate police and firefighters
communications in LA County during major emergencies.
But firefighters and others oppose placement of the system's
cell towers.  (Barbara Davidson/ Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles officials halt public-safety LTE network, clouding FirstNet's progress
by Mike Dano, fiercewireless.com,
2 April 2015

The Los Angeles City Council voted to halt the construction of a massive 700 MHz LTE network that was intended to cover 4,000 square miles and 34,000 law enforcement, fire service and health service workers. The action casts a cloud over FirstNet, which is charged with building a nationwide LTE network for police, firefighters and other emergency responders.

According to Urgent Communications, the LA City Council voted 12-0 that "construction of the LTE system at city of Los Angeles fire stations and police stations not commence, or immediately cease, if started." The vote came just days after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also voted to halt the construction of the network.

According to various media reports, opponents of the network raised a range of concerns about the project. Some were worried that the construction of massive cell towers would reduce residents' property values. Others were concerned of the possible health effects from the operation of cell towers. Others said that the network was being built without input from the community with outdated specifications, was too expensive, and was largely unnecessary.

Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS) was overseeing the construction of the network, including a total of roughly 177 planned cell towers. And NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program was to pay for around 80 percent of the cost of the network. However, those funds likely will be forfeited since they require that the system be operational by Sept. 30--unless LA-RICS receives an extension to that deadline. According to Southern California Public Radio, only 14 of the 177 planned cell towers have been built so far.

LA-RICS was the first jurisdiction in the United States to approve a FirstNet 700 MHz spectrum-lease pact, in 2013. In 2014, Motorola Solutions was selected as the lead vendor to build the Band 14, 700 MHz network for LA-RICS.

The collapse of LA's LTE network is just the latest setback for FirstNet. Last month, FirstNet said it would delay the release of a draft RFP due to questions that arose in its finance committee. And just a few weeks earlier, members of the Senate Commerce Committee grilled FirstNet board Chairwoman Sue Swenson over a number of issues, including FirstNet's rural coverage plans and its hiring process.

FirstNet stems from the communication problems--including aging and inoperable systems used by different agencies--that emergency workers encountered during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. FirstNet's goal is to build a nationwide LTE network that would mainly be used by emergency responders--the network is intended to allow police, firefighters and others to all use the same system and be able to talk to each other, without having to change frequencies or equipment. The LTE network is also intended to support high-speed data applications like streaming video.

The votes to stop LA-RICS' work appears to put FirstNet's goals even further out of reach.

For more:
- see this Urgent Communications article
- see this KHTS article
- see this LA Times article
- see this Southern California Public Radio article

Related Articles:
FirstNet delays draft RFP, cites finance committee questions
Senators grill FirstNet's Swenson on rural coverage, hiring process
Motorola Solutions wins $175M LA-RICS' contract while FirstNet rejigs contractor lineup
Los Angeles is first BTOP grantee to approve FirstNet spectrum-lease pact


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