IWCE Virtual: PSSA calls for 4.9 GHz to be added to FirstNet’s spectrum – RCR Wireless News

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A new advocacy group is calling for additional spectrum to be assigned to the FirstNet Authority for exclusive use public safety, saying that the spectrum could eventually help support public safety use of 5G.

In a discussion as part of this week’s IWCE Virtual event, Sue Swenson — a former board member and board chair of the FirstNet Authority, and now founder of the Public Safety Spectrum Alliance (PSSA) — said that 50 megahertz of spectrum at 4.9 GHz, which is already designated for public safety use, should be assigned to the FirstNet Authority to develop a spectrum plan and reserve a portion of the band for public safety 5G.

Swenson discussed the history of the band with Charles Dowd, a fellow former FirstNet board member and retired assistant police chief with NYPD, and also a member of PSSA. Dowd noted the long history of public safety organizations advocating for communications spectrum, which ultimately led to the formation of, spectrum and funding for the FirstNet-AT&T public-private partnership. (Read more about the PSSA in its request to the FCC on a new rulemaking for 4.9 GHz (pdf)).

The 4.9 GHz spectrum was assigned for public safety use in 2002, and since then, much has changed in how public safety utilizes technology, and mobile broadband in particular, Swenson said. The Federal Communications Commission has been mulling the band’s future for the past several years and issued multiple proposed rulemakings seeking input on options. Swenson noted that in addition to increased public safety use of mobile broadband over the years, there is also now a FirstNet Authority agency, which already controls nationwide Band 14 spectrum at 700 MHz and leases it to AT&T while directing network investment priorities; and a FirstNet network, which co-exists with AT&T’s commercial network and provides a private network core and priority and preemption for FirstNet users. Those things did not exist in 2002. The FirstNet board is also already reinvesting in the network to prepare for public safety use of 5G

Swenson said it’s understandable that the FCC wants to extend the use of the band beyond public safety, but the PSSA believes that the band will be a valuable resource that should not be repurposed when public safety is only beginning to explore the advantages of LTE services and a network dedicated specifically for their use.

“Giving up the spectrum today could result in public safety once again falling behind in technological capabilities. … I really don’t think we want to put public safety in the position of being behind in technology, again,” Swenson said.

The PSSA has three goals, Swenson said: Make sure 4.9 GHz stays dedicated to public safety use, get that spectrum assigned to FirstNet Authority, and have the FirstNet Authority develop a spectrum plan for the 4.9 GHz. “This plan would allow for the continued support and protection of existing public safety licenses while also allocating a portion of the spectrum for 5G technologies and potentially integrating it with FirstNet,” Swenson said.

“The PSSA is convinced that in order to truly optimize use of the 50 MHz of spectrum known as the 4.9 GHz public safety band, it is critical that it remains in the exclusive stewardship of the public safety community,” the PSSA said in a filing with the FCC (pdf). “The most logical pathway to assuring the preservation, and ultimately full utilization of the 4.9 GHz spectrum, is to grant license to The FirstNet Authority, which will provide for the spectrum to follow the current broadband technology trends as they become commercially viable.”

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