D.C. stretches wireless net

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Room to roam

One set of government users is working extra hard to ensure that broadband wireless connectivity is a reality for first responders in public safety applications.

The Spectrum Coalition for Public Safety in Washington, D.C., formed two years ago to find a way for police, fire, emergency medical services, federal, and adjacent state and local public safety partners to communicate in the field and from inside buildings during emergencies.

Working with an experimental license from the Federal Communications Commission, the coalition has erected the first of 10 radio towers that will cover the 62 square miles of the District of Columbia. Coalition members decided the towers needed channels of 1.5 megabits/sec, with a 300 kilobits/sec uplink, according to Robert LeGrande, deputy chief technology officer in the Office of the CTO for Washington, D.C.

After looking at WiMax and some other options, the group chose Flash Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) from Flarion Technologies Inc. Flarion officials advocate a broadband wireless standard similar to WiMax being worked on by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc.'s 802.20 for frequencies less than 3.5 GHz. That standard appears to compete with or replicate WiMax's 802.16e, which has carved out chunks of licensed spectrum in the 2 GHz to 6 GHz bands.

And although the coalition is using the prestandard 802.20 technology, the group is also lobbying for its own spectrum allocation to avoid the pitfalls of shared spectrum that could thwart first responders.

"Every second is an opportunity to save a life, and first responders need data" as soon as possible, LeGrande said. "They cannot wait in a queue for other commercial services."

The coalition issued a request for proposals late last year; the only responses came from Flarion

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