Northrop to provide wireless public safety net for NYC

New York City has awarded Northrop Grumman a $500 million contract to develop a broadband wireless network, which the city characterized as the “most aggressive commitment by any municipality to provide a next-generation public safety network.”

The New York Citywide Mobile Wireless Network (CMWN) will provide the New York Police Department, Fire Department, Transportation Department, Office of Emergency Management and other agencies with a high-speed network capable of handling a variety of broadband data including federal and state anti-crime and anti-terrorism, fingerprint, mug shot and city map databases, and full-motion streaming video, the city said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the new network will help fill in the communications gaps that occurred as emergency workers grappled five years ago with the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center. “One of the most important lessons learned from the Sept. 11 attacks was that our emergency responders need better access to information and clearer lines of communication in the field,” Bloomberg said.

CMWN will ensure that public safety workers will have the tools they need to fight crime and help in emergencies, Bloomberg said. It will also improve efficiency and productivity in nonemergency situations by streamlining communications and improving service, he added.

The city said it expects Northrop Grumman will turn the network on in Lower Manhattan by January 2007, with citywide deployment planned by spring 2008. The city has an option to extend the contract for 10 years.

The company said it selected IPWireless to provide its Universal Mobile Telecommunications System equipment used by commercial cellular carriers for CMWN. The gear can provide mobile users with broadband data service at speeds up to 16M per second, according to a fact sheet on the company’s Web site.

Lori Horton, director of strategic wireless initiatives at Northrop Grumman, said CMWN will provide users with data rates of 2M per second in a vehicle moving 60 miles per hour. The company demonstrated in a test earlier this year in Lower Manhattan that it can provide such data rates to vehicles moving at 120 mph, she added.

A unique feature of the network will address concerns raised by top commanders’ inability to communicate in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, Horton said. It will give priority to incident scene commanders so they get the bandwidth they need when they need it, she said.

The city said the high data rates provided by CMWN will allow the NYPD and FDNY to deploy new applications to workers in the field. The network will enable police officers to access real-time photo, warrant and license plate databases.

The network will enable FDNY to establish reliable wireless connectivity between the Fire Operations Center and responders in the field to transmit on-scene data and video, the city said. New York will work to provide network access to state and federal public safety agencies.

The city said it plans to use CMWN support a number of nonemergency applications that will provide a significant improvement over existing technology for city workers in the field. For example, it will include remote water meter reading technology for the Environmental Protection Department, which will reduce costs associated with conventional methods of meter reading.

The city said its DOT will use the network to expand its ability to remotely monitor and program traffic signal controls daily and during emergencies.

When New York released the CMWN bid request in 2004, it attracted interest from bidders including EDS, IBM, Lucent and Lockheed Martin.

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