LAS VEGAS — A session at the APCO 2018 show here yesterday afternoon on FCC developments related to public safety evolved into a discussion of public safety spectrum and technological developments that may enable commercial operators to share frequencies with agencies.
During the discussion, Jeff Cohen, APCO’s chief counsel and director-government relations, said that until relatively recently, public safety and commercial spectrum were separate and were treated differently given public safety’s role in protecting Americans. Now, there is more interest in reallocating public safety frequencies for commercial use or in enabling sharing, he noted.
Public safety spectrum has been targeted for sharing or reallocation in the 4.9 gigahertz and 6 GHz bands and in the T-band (470-512 megahertz).
“Public safety is special,” said David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. But he added that “spectrum policy … needs to allow technology to drive change.”
Spectrum that once was not seen as useful is now being eyed for use thanks to technological developments, “and I think public safety can benefit from that,” Mr. Furth said.
“I think we need to be careful about siloing public safety spectrum policy too much,” he added. “At the same time, we need to make sure that if we’re going to rely on … commercial spectrum users to support public safety, that it be done in a way that serves public safety interests.”
In the 4.9 GHz band, where the FCC is mulling whether to allow commercial operators to share the spectrum or to reallocate the channels to operators. But Mr. Furth said that similar issues will arise “more broadly. Everybody that uses spectrum, I think, has an obligation to use it efficiently. It is a scarce resource.”
An audience member, David Buchanan, a public safety veteran who has worked on spectrum management issues with the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council, asked, “What are the limits?”
“At some point, physics has got to drive this whole thing. You can’t just keep cramming people in,” said Mr. Buchanan, who helped organize NPSTC’s comments in the FCC’s 4.9 GHz band proceeding.
“The answer to the question of what is technically feasible and what is technically feasible at an affordable cost has changed,” Mr. Furth replied. “So what we don’t want to do is come up with an answer that sort of stops that progress in its … tracks.”
He added that while “the laws of physics are the laws of physics, and you can’t break them,” parties should not assume that a new spectrum arrangement is not technically feasible.
“It’s a balance. There are tradeoffs when you’re talking about interference, when you’re talking about sharing spectrum. There are always tradeoffs,” Mr. Furth added. “And we have to candidly and realistically assess what they are. … I think we’ve been pretty successful so far.” Continue reading