— Volume IX (2013) —

Enabling Public Safety Priority Use of Commercial Wireless Networks


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Ryan Hallahan

Ryan Hallahan recently received his PhD in Engineering & Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University where he was a Bertucci Graduate Fellow. His dissertation focused on methods of improving public safety wireless communication systems in the United States, including analyzing the cost of a nationwide wireless broadband network, and the advantages of and challenges to leveraging commercial infrastructure and spectrum to supplement dedicated public safety networks. His papers have been presented at the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (TPRC) and published in Telecommunications Policy. He has a Master of Science in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jon M. Peha

Jon M. Peha is a full professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of Engineering & Public Policy and the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, and served as associate director of the university's Center for Wireless and Broadband Networking. From 2008 to 2011, Dr. Peha served in the US government, first as chief technologist of the Federal Communications Commission, and then as assistant director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy where he focused on communications policy and research policy. He has previously been chief technical officer of three high-tech start-ups, and a member of technical staff at SRI International, AT&T Bell Laboratories, and Microsoft. He has addressed telecom and e-commerce issues on legislative staff in the US House and Senate, and helped launch and lead a US government interagency program to assist developing countries with information infrastructure. Dr. Peha consults for industry and government agencies around the world. He is an IEEE fellow and an AAAS fellow. He holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford.

By providing public safety users with roaming access to commercial broadband networks on a priority basis, it’s possible to increase the capacity, coverage, and reliability beyond what’s possible with dedicated public safety networks alone. This article quantifies the advantages with respect to capacity, showing that by establishing multiple arrangements with commercial carriers in every locality, public safety can access an amount of capacity that has been projected for very serious emergencies without seriously compromising quality of service for commercial customers. However, this article also demonstrates some of the issues that must be addressed when crafting roaming agreements between public safety and commercial carriers. LTE technology provides a wide range of capabilities to support priority and roaming, but these must be used in accordance with policies and governance structures that have yet to emerge. It must be decided whether priority and resource allocation decisions are made in an automated way or with human intervention, and if the latter, the locus of control. Moreover, agreements must find ways to accommodate significant technical differences in commercial networks, even though they all comply with a common (LTE) standard, and to support changes in technology and needs over the coming years. This will require a single entity with the expertise and authority to bridge public safety stakeholders, commercial carriers, and technical standards bodies.

Read full article.

Hallahan, Ryan, and Jon M. Peha. “Enabling Public Safety Priority Use of Commercial Wireless Networks.” Homeland Security Affairs 9, Article 13 (August 2013)