Wireless priority set in D.C., NYC

The National Communications System announced April 17 that it has approved a subcontract award from DynCorp to VoiceStream for Wireless Priority Service (WPS) for the Washington, D.C., and New York City metropolitan areas.

Brenton Greene, deputy manager of the NCS, said he was excited about the new VoiceStream deal, which would establish an immediate WPS program to "assist national security and emergency preparedness needs for key government decision-makers, emergency responders and private-sector critical infrastructure personnel in the New York City and Washington, D.C. areas."

The Federal Communications Commission earlier this month granted a temporary waiver to VoiceStream to allow the company and the government to launch a wireless priority access service for use during emergencies. Government officials have been pushing for such a service since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks wreaked havoc on wireless telephone networks.

The FCC waiver, which was approved March 15 and announced April 3, was necessary for wireless telecommunications companies to begin putting wireless priority access in selected areas without meeting the queuing and other requirements set by the FCC.

DynCorp is the systems integration for the NCS' Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS). That system, in which government workers are given a code and categorized for priority access, is viewed as the model for the wireless priority access system.

DynCorp awarded VoiceStream the subcontract for handset units for national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) personnel at the federal, state, and local levels of government in the Washington, D.C., and New York City metropolitan areas.

The WPS is planned to be operational within 60 days, Greene said. In times of national emergency or crisis, when localized wireless networks can become congested, the system will enable a limited number of designated national security and emergency preparedness users to have a greater chance of being able to place emergency calls by placing calls in a queue for the next available channel.

The FCC governs authorized national security and emergency preparedness users, and WPS priority assignments are for personnel and individuals in leadership positions.

The percentage of authorized WPS users on a wireless network compared with the wireless network's customer base is expected to be less than one-tenth of 1 percent, according to VoiceStream.

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