Built on a existing public/private partnership, stakeholders and industry partners led by FirstNet Colorado worked together to deploy a dedicated Public Safety LTE Demonstration Network for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek, CO.
Two new reports released in recent weeks by FirstNet Colorado and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Communications have confirmed the powerful success that public/private partnerships can achieve in the critical area of public safety communications.
Building on a successful partnership with ADCOM911 in Adams County, Colorado, and its Public Safety Broadband Network, General Dynamics Mission Systems completed a historic demonstration. General Dynamics coordinated with the Colorado Governor's Office of Information Technology (OIT), the team at FirstNet Colorado and public safety leaders from Vail and surrounding Eagle counties.
The project mission was to help protect over 220,000 athletes, coaches, staff, media and spectators who descended on Colorado for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. The mission included constructing cutting-edge communications technology, including a dedicated Band-Class 14 LTE network built specifically for the more than 1,100 first responders and volunteers charged with keeping this massive event both safe and enjoyable for everyone.
FirstNet Colorado's report called the project an incredibly powerful partnership formed between the public sector, including the Town of Vail and the State of Colorado, and the private sector, which included General Dynamics Mission Systems. The report also said it was a successful and remarkable example of the power of public/private partnerships to produce a definable benefit for the public safety community.
The report noted that the first challenge was providing the basic communications service at an elevation of almost 9,000 feet above sea level, in a secluded mountainous area that was deemed by one public safety official as one of the most hostile areas for radio frequency (RF) coverage the town had ever encountered.
Working together, it was decided that a deployable solution provided to Eagle County by General Dynamics Mission Systems would solve a key part of the problem.
Just as we did in Adams County, our Cell-on-Wheels (COW) was on the ground in Vail. The 4G LTE network created by the COW provided an expandable coverage area for an advanced broadband network to help first responders manage critical public safety communication at large-scale events, like the world ski championships and even in the most rugged of areas like the Rocky Mountains, said Chris Marzilli, president of General Dynamics Mission Systems.
The reports also outlined how General Dynamics Mission Systems utilized its state-of-the-art Evolved Node B, otherwise known as the eNodeBlue, that serves as the engine behind the 4G LTE network. The eNodeBlue can be deployed inside a tower, building rooftop, equipment room, shelter, or outdoor cabinet to provide first responders with high-speed network coverage to enable voice, video, data, text, and chat.
In Eagle County, first responders went from having challenges connecting with basic cell phone signals, to using video surveillance with high-resolution images across the many miles separating various events.
Importantly, the reports also detailed how the concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for first responders and volunteers proved to be tremendously valuable and cost-effective. The event applications (apps) could be uploaded and used on almost any smartphone, while access to the dedicated Band-Class 14 LTE network eliminated the problem of communications congestion caused by the general public at an event of this magnitude.
In reading the after-action reports by FirstNet Colorado and DHS, its easy to see how this technology will also play a key role as FirstNet communications systems are built throughout the country, Marzilli said.
Mr. Marzillis assessment was confirmed by FirstNet Colorado which wrote, [T]he successes of the network, even when tempered by the noted areas for future improvement, demonstrate the value of providing responders with access to a ubiquitous, permanent, nationwide public safety broadband network.
In fact, FirstNet Colorado said that [N]etwork coverage exceeded expectations and that the COW provided reliable BC-14 LTE coverage in remote areas and as an augmentation to LMR capabilities.
The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Communications echoed those findings, writing, The BC-14 demonstration network deployed in support of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships demonstrated that private commercial entities possess the technical capabilities necessary to design, implement, test and operate a public safety-dedicated broadband network. Further, it demonstrated that public safety can benefit from access to a dedicated public safety broadband network.
I could not be more proud of the General Dynamics team that demonstrated the incredible capabilities and services of our company in a series of high profile events, Marzilli concluded. This successful demonstration project makes clear that we have both the technological know-how and the successful ability to work closely with government agencies to help ensure all of our first responders have the communications network that they deserve. We look forward to our continued expansion into the public safety communications arena in the months and years ahead.
Finally, FirstNet Colorado concluded with a message for those who might still question the efficacy or necessity of a dedicated public safety network:
By its nature, the public safety community is skeptical of the unproven; this skepticism has left many wondering if we are chasing something unattainable. The most valuable aspect of this demonstration was that it took the fantasy out of Public Safety LTE and made it reality. Putting this technology directly into the hand of first responders, rather than those of actors on screens, helped to prove the technology is critical to the success of the first responders.