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GAO report - Required Auction of Public Safety Spectrum Could Harm First Responder Capabilities

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In 11 large metropolitan areas, critical communications for police, firefighters, and others take place in the T-Band part of the radio spectrum. For example, the NYPD dispatches 911 calls via the T-Band.

Starting in 2021, public safety T-Band will be auctioned as required by law. Public safety organizations must move their communications to another part of the spectrum within 2 years of the auction's end.



Emergency Communications: Required Auction of Public Safety Spectrum Could Harm First Responder Capabilities
 
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N1GAW

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GAO was asked to review issues related to the required T-Band auction. This report examines, among other things: (1) the challenges selected first responders and local governments anticipate facing in relocating public safety communications from the T-Band and (2) the actions FCC hastaken both to help facilitate the required T-Band relocation and to address identified challenges. GAO reviewed FCC’s March 2019 congressional briefing and analysis on T-Band spectrum and conducted case studies in four cities s elected based on the number of public safety licenses in each area, among other things. GAO reviewed relevant statutes and regulations, FCC documents, and T-Band studies conducted by a public safety organization. GAO interviewed FCC officials and other stakeholders, including first responders in case study cities.What GAO Recommends Congress should consider legislation allowing public safety users continued use of the T-Band spectrum.
 

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mmckenna

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Anyone that's been around for the 10+ years of NexTel 800MHz rebanding knew that the T-band thing was going to be a total nightmare.

I rebanded my old 800MHz system back in 2008. A few months ago Sprint -finally- closed it all out. The system that was rebanded was retired about 7 years ago. There are 800MHz systems that have still not been rebanded.
 

wa8pyr

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Anyone that's been around for the 10+ years of NexTel 800MHz rebanding knew that the T-band thing was going to be a total nightmare.

I rebanded my old 800MHz system back in 2008. A few months ago Sprint -finally- closed it all out. The system that was rebanded was retired about 7 years ago. There are 800MHz systems that have still not been rebanded.
Had to wait until 2010-2011 to start ours thanks to the Canadian negotiations. The project was finally closed out last year, with the last of the paperwork. Still waiting on the close-out paperwork for the other system I work for.

Of course, both systems have since been retired, one in 2016 and the other late last year. If I had known rebanding was going to take so long I would have just taken the money and applied it to our P25 system upgrades.
 

mmckenna

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If I had known rebanding was going to take so long I would have just taken the money and applied it to our P25 system upgrades.
Yeah, me too.
In fact, when Nextel showed up to talk about our rebanding, they had two Motorola engineers with them. Following them was no less than 4 Motorola sales people trying to convinces us to buy a fancy new P25 system. They don't miss a thing when it comes to sales.
 

TampaTyron

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The 900 rebanding will be a mess too..... there is no way T band will end up with the cell carriers. It is much easier to open up new virgin spectrum and sell it to the carriers vs. move T band users. TT
 

zapman987

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Yeah, me too.
In fact, when Nextel showed up to talk about our rebanding, they had two Motorola engineers with them. Following them was no less than 4 Motorola sales people trying to convinces us to buy a fancy new P25 system. They don't miss a thing when it comes to sales.
Be interesting the way ATT has done some sales bits for Firstnet, they try to sell it as a replacement.
 

N9JIG

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This has been a debacle of the top notch, as bad as the Rebanding nonsense. I was intimately involved in both as well as Narrowbanding. These three programs were quite the nightmare to navigate and fed into each other. In addition I don't think any agencies that did the right thing and moved elsewhere (like mine did) will ever see a dime to recoup the expenses as we were promised.

The Rebanding program *should* have provided Nextel and other commercial 800 MHz. licensees with operational systems with virgin spectrum, perhaps in the 2 GHz. range near the PCS carriers. Nextel and others should have been given a hard timeline, (and I forget the exact dates here so bear with me) from initiation of the rules in which they could sell dual band devices that work on the existing network and the new network. 3 years later they could only sell devices on the new spectrum since by then the new network should have been built out. 3 years after that they have to retire the old 800 MHz. network and the dual band units would only then operate on the new freqs, the old units should be retired by then. Once the 800 MHz. spectrum was vacated by commercial users it would be opened up for public safety. Better separation of users for interference reduction, less taxpayer money spent, more spectrum for all. A 6-year program with no need for relocating Public Safety users instead of a decade long nightmare that caused tons of aggravation, an easy choice.

The we get to the T-Band debacle. What *should* have been done was to devote all or part of the T-Band channel groups to public safety and relocate the few business operations extant there to either one channel group or perhaps part of the new commercial band with Nextel and the former commercial operations relocated from 800. Again, no new expenses to public safety and the taxpayers that pay for this, new spectrum available for all and better separation of users. Had the rebanding thing been done right, they could have still relocated Public Safety to the newly available channels in 800 if they still needed to be moved. As it was there was never any spectrum provided for users of T-Band, a chunk of spectrum provided only in areas so crammed already that there was no place left to go, how did they expect users to find channels in these busiest areas of the country?

As an offshoot of the T-Band debacle they decided that T-Band users would not be required to narrowband their systems as they would be going away. The problem is some of us already did so at great expense, in money, time and effort. Instead of waiting for the last minute like many others, our group got on it and did all the required work right away to get ahead of the curve. At the time I maintained the largest group of T-Band licenses in the Midwest and spent hundreds of hours adding narrowband emissions to the licenses, receiving the new grants then deleting the wide emissions after the work was done. A year after we spent thousands of dollars to narrowband dozens of repeaters, control stations and receivers, and hundreds of mobile and portable radios the FCC said "Never mind, you don't have to do that on T-Band since we sold your frequencies off". Of course the agencies will likely never see a dime of compensation like we were promised. Aggravating the whole problem is that no new spectrum was ever made available for Public Safety and no priority given thru Coordination for T-Band users to move to other ranges.

Tying all this together, had it been done right with Rebanding before the T-Band issue, Public Safety could have been moved off T-Band to 800 as there would have been additional spectrum there to accommodate them. T-Band could have then been auctioned off and everyone would be happy.

Since then Ihave retired but the agencies again spent big money to leave T-Band and go to the regional trunked system, again at great expense for radios, service, consoles, connectivity and airtime. All this could have been avoided had the FCC worked with the stakeholders as a whole instead of one particular agency with something else on their mind.

PS: Do NOT get me started on FirstNet!
 

zerg901

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There are many interesting aspects to public safety wireless communications systems in the USA.

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Just for the record ya honor

 

Cameron314

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The Rebanding program *should* have provided Nextel and other commercial 800 MHz. licensees with operational systems with virgin spectrum, perhaps in the 2 GHz...
What makes you think there is such a thing?
 
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