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GAO: Nationwide Broadband Network 10 Yrs From Replacing Legacy Emergency Comm. Systems

Courtesy of twowaydirect.com

A nationwide public safety broadband network meant to enable first responders and emergency personnel to communicate instantly with data and video will not be able to fully replace legacy systems for at least 10 years, a Government Accountability Office report has found.

Although the proposed system could provide greater interoperability than the current ‘land mobile radio’ systems, GAO found it would fall short of providing the same level of voice capabilities.

That means the new system would have to run concurrently with the old systems, which are expensive and have limited range, Elizabeth Montalbano summarized in an Information Week report.

GAO laid out its findings in a report entitled “Various Challenges Likely to Slow Implementation of a Public Safety Broadband Network.”

The proposed broadband network’s interoperability would provide major improvements over some capabilities of the current systems, which limited effective responses to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina as different responders were operating on different frequencies.

However, GAO found the broadband system could not integrate mission-critical voice communication features, including push-to-talk functionality, which GAO said the proposed broadband system’s Long Term Evolution standard cannot support.

The broadband network similarly could not support some direct-line communications with individuals in remote or confined areas.

Montalbano noted there has been progress in implementing the broadband system as $7 billion in federal grant money and a block of wireless spectrum has been allocated to the network.

Regardless, the GAO said a lack of commercial LTE solutions to these communication problems, among other impediments, means development of the necessary technology to fully replace the legacy systems will not come for some time.

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