By Jeff Bratcher, FirstNet Acting Chief Technical Officer
Last week, staff from the FirstNet technical headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, attended the Colorado Public Safety Long Term Evolution (PS LTE) demonstration at the International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine World Ski Championships (AWSC). The AWSC attracts more than 150,000 athletes and spectators to events held in multiple locations throughout Eagle County over two weeks in the high-mountain terrain of the Beaver Creek resort and the Town of Vail.
To support public safety communications for the event, the Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) FirstNet Colorado, with support from several vendors, implemented a demonstration PS LTE broadband network using the FirstNet licensed 700 MHz spectrum. Colorado utilized a Special Temporary Authority (STA) request from the FCC in coordination with FirstNet. Users of the PS LTE broadband demonstration network included the National Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the FBI, US Forest Service Law Enforcement, and local Vail/Beaver Creek police officers, as well as other public safety support personnel.
On Tuesday, February 10, members of the technical and outreach teams and I were invited by Brian Shepherd, who is the state’s single point of contact (SPOC), to Beaver Creek and Vail to learn more about the demonstration network and how it was being used during the course of the AWSC.
Some of the capabilities I saw during our visit included placement of deployable assets in hard to reach places, including a Cell on Wheels (COW) that was placed at the Beaver Creek competition event center to provide Band 14 PS LTE coverage. Additionally, four eNodeB’s were integrated into the city of Vail’s Distributed Antenna System (DAS) to provide event/downtown Band 14 PS LTE coverage. Also, Colorado deployed WiFi access points utilizing Band 14 PS LTE as the backhaul to provide bring your own device (BYOD) WiFi connectivity to firefighters, emergency medical services, and law enforcement. This included several police car mounted WiFi access points.
The team demonstrated several key applications that were being used over the network, including:
- Live-streaming video cameras that are monitored 24/7 at the Event Command Post in Beaver Creek as a demonstration of live situational awareness
- A push-to-talk group communications program running on ruggedized Android based handsets
- A situational awareness app for resource tracking
- Web browsing and general internet connectivity
I also tested out live video chat applications and a few other voice over IP-based (VoIP) clients on the rugged devices, which demonstrated very good throughput on the system.
Thanks to Brian, Kimberleigh Coleman, Ed Mills, and the Colorado team for inviting us to the demo of the Band 14 Public Safety LTE network at the Alpine Ski Championships. While it is only a temporary demonstration network, it still exhibited the benefits that a dedicated broadband network can provide to public safety with increased coverage, capacity, and access to broadband-based mobile applications. We look forward to continue working with Brian and his team to learn more about how the demonstration network performed during the entire event.