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NPSTC Home NPSTC Newsletter Volume 10 Issue 1, Summer 2010

From the Chair
by Ralph Haller

From the Chair I would like to begin by congratulating Alan Caldwell on being selected to receive the Richard DeMello award this year …

Don't Miss the Second Canada-U.S. Cross-Border Interoperable Communications Workshop!

Cross-Border Workshop The 2010 Canada-U.S. Cross Border Interoperable Communications Workshop occurs in Windsor, ON from Sep 13 to 15, 2010, co-hosted by OEC and Public Safety Canada (PS) …

NPSTC's Committees Meet in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia in June

Committees Meet in Alexandria Dep. Chief Eddie Reyes, Alexandria PD, welcomed attendees and introduced Alexandria PD Honor Guard, who presented the colors, led the Pledge of Allegiance …

Lance Valcour Awarded Order of Merit Recognizing Lifetime of Exceptional Service

Valcour Awarded Order of Merit May 26, 2010, Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, presented the Order of Merit to Lance Valcour …

Momentum Builds for D Block Allocation to Public Safety

D Block Allocation As Donny Jackson said, "Sometimes, a day can make a big difference.  For broadband wireless network for first responders, yesterday was one of those days" …

NPSTC Welcomes UTC as Its Newest Associate Member

NPSTC Welcomes UTC At NPSTC's June 2010 meeting, the member organizations unanimously voted to add the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) as its newest associate member …

NPSTC and APCO Make Common Channel Naming Official ANSI Standard

Channel Naming Standard In June 2010, NPSTC's Common Channel Naming Guide was recognized as a standard by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) …

Regulatory Update
by Bette Rinehart

Regulatory Update

  • Certain Interim Narrowbanding Deadlines Extended
  • Mexican Border Rebanding Negotiation Deadlines Extended
  • Wireless Mics May Not Operate in 700 MHz Band after June 12, 2010
  • Comment Sought on PSST's Proposed Budget and Administrative Fees for 700 MHz Public Safety Broadband Waiver Recipients
  • And much more! …


How Much Spectrum Will Public Safety Need in 2020?
Spectrum in 2020 In 1996, the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC) published its report on public safety's needs through 2010, led to 700 and 4.9 GHz spectrum assignments …

NIEM: How a Standardized Data Exchange Language Enhances Public Safety

The city of Richmond and York County, VA, agreed to serve as pilot sites for a program jointly supported by the DOJ's BJA, APCO, CSAA, and others …

Proposal for Standardized Pairing of VHF Interoperability Channels
by John Powell

Unlike the UTAC channels, there are no nationwide VTAC repeater pairs.  VTAC17 is available only in certain areas of the western United States …

COMLs Get a National Registry
COML National Registry States and territories agree, the role of the COML is critically important, and the requests for training have been most sought after types of assistance OEC offers …

Why We Need Cross-Border Agreements
Cross-Border Agreements The U.S./Canadian border runs through the middle of the towns of Stanstead, Quebec, and Derby Line, Vermont.  Each responds to calls on both sides of the border …

Since We Last Met
Since We Last Met

NPSTC Filings (VOIPS and 700 MHz, LightSquared, TETRA,…), Canadian "Enabling Interoperability Forum" in September, PSAC Adopts Recommendations…

From the Chair
by Ralph Haller

From the Chair

I would like to begin by congratulating Alan Caldwell on being selected to receive the Richard DeMello award this year at the annual Radio Club of America meeting in New York.  Alan has been a determined fighter for the needs of the public safety community for many years.  This is exactly the type of determination that exemplifies the work of Dick DeMello.  I have had the opportunity to know and work with both men.  Dick worked tirelessly to represent public safety at the FCC, in Congress, and with the Executive Branch.  Alan carries on that tradition magnificently and is truly deserving of this honor.  [Editor's Note: A biography of Mr. Caldwell's achievements will appear in the Fall 2010 newsletter when he receives his award at the Radio Club of America dinner in New York City]

One of the decisions made at the June meeting was to invite the Utility Telecomm Council (UTC) to become an associate member of NPSTC.  In any disaster, one of the first restoration requirements is to repair the utility infrastructure.  At such times, utility workers must coordinate closely with first responders in the public safety arena to assure that smooth and successful repairs are made in a timely fashion.  Having UTC's expertise at the NPSTC table will help assure that policies and recommendations of NPSTC include the needs of both communities.

I am also pleased to note that the FCC acted on NPSTC's petition to examine the narrowbanding requirements that were to go into effect on January 1, 2011.  The original requirements would have required a 6.25 kHz equivalent mode in all new radios and would have made it difficult to secure new 25.0 kHz equipment.  The FCC eliminated both of those requirements.  Another requirement that the FCC elected to retain was that no new 25.0 kHz systems could be licensed and no existing 25.0 kHz systems can be expanded after January 1, 2011.  The FCC apparently missed the point that this requirement will hinder interoperability between different systems and perhaps even within a single system.  For example, if a city expands its VHF or UHF coverage, that expansion must be in the narrowband mode while the existing infrastructure may be capable of only wideband operation.  Narrowband and wideband radios simply do not play well together.  The result of the mix is distorted audio or very low level audio.  But, the decision will prevent agencies from having to buy equipment with modes of operation that are neither needed nor desired.

Finally, I would like to thank DHS's Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC) and Office of Emergency Communications, and Dr. David Boyd (OIC) and Mr. Chris Essid (OEC), for the continuing support for NPSTC activities.  Both offices rely on NPSTC to provide input on major public safety matters based on NPSTC's "boots on the ground" experience.  NPSTC takes this obligation very seriously and looks forward to a continuing, long-term relationship with OIC and OEC.

Don't Miss the Second Canada-U.S. Cross-Border Interoperable Communications Workshop!

The 2010 Canada-U.S. Cross Border Interoperable Communications Workshop occurs in Windsor, Ontario from September 13 to 15, 2010.  Co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) and Public Safety Canada (PS), the workshop will bring together a broad base of users and officials from all levels of government from both nations with an interest in cross-border communications along the Canada-U.S. border.

Cross Border Workshop

Don't miss your opportunity to provide direct input to senior Canadian and U.S. government officials regarding future action plans that address cross-border interoperability challenges.  The target audience for this event includes interoperability leaders and users from:

  • Emergency Response Agencies (law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, emergency managers)
  • Other Public Safety Providers (federal, state/provincial, and local/municipal)
  • Military and Coast Guard
  • Government Agencies and Utilities

Visit for complete information.

NPSTC's Committees Meet in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia in June

Alexandria PD Honor Guard

Deputy Chief Eddie Reyes, Alexandria Police Department, welcomed attendees to the meeting and introduced the Alexandria Police Department Honor Guard, who presented the colors and led those assembled in the Pledge of Allegiance.  [Right]

Ralph Haller, Chair, NPSTC, called the meeting to order at 1:00 p.m., June 14, 2010, flanked by Douglas Aiken, Vice Chair, and Kevin McGinnis, representing the National Association of State Emergency Medical Services Officials (NASEMSO)[Below]

Alexandria Meeting Podium

NPSTC's June meeting was productive and well attended with about 100 participants.  In the words of some participants to the meeting, “I work for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority in the National Capital Region, where interoperability is an absolute necessity, and NPSTC is a vital component which enables the region to maintain and improve coordination and interoperability among our first responders and public safety resources.  I attend the meeting to gather information, identify future wireless communication trends, and interact with other area attendees.  I try to attend all NPSTC meetings that are held in the Washington, DC area.”  Edward Donald, Radio Communications Analyst

Alexandria NPSTC Meeting

“I am the Radio System Manager for Arlington County, VA.  I have been aware of NPSTC for some time now, but I have never been available to attend any meetings.  This meeting was different, I knew in enough time, and I was available.  I hope to make as many meetings as I can, but I'm a one-woman shop, so I'm spread pretty thin.”  Lisa K Thompson, Radio System Manager, Arlington County Office of Emergency Management

Roy McClellan, Director, Standards and Regulatory for Public Safety business for Plant CML/EADS, says, “I attended the Alexandria meeting due to the current activity on broadband spectrum for public safety.  The NPSTC meetings are important to our team for the direct interfaces and interactions on all fronts of public safety communications – FCC, Fed, State, Local government activities/updates, and as stated above – the current broadband initiatives.  The NPSTC meetings are excellent for participants, scope, content, and quality of information.  Finally, the fact that materials from the meetings are posted to the NPSTC website is also particularly useful for those of us on the industry side of this business.“

Alexandria NPSTC Meeting

[Left] Dr. David Boyd, Director, Department Homeland Security (DHS), Command, Control & Interoperability Division, provided opening remarks, saying DHS considers NPSTC a valuable federation of organizations that provides DHS feedback from the broad range of public safety disciplines NPSTC assembles.

Alexandria NPSTC Meeting

Chris Essid, Director, Office of Emergency Communications (OEC), DHS, echoed Dr. Boyd's remarks, saying that NPSTC and SAFECOM participants have provided a lot of wonderful ideas in developing tools and documents.  [Right]

Alexandria NPSTC Meeting

NPSTC thanks the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) for sponsoring a break to celebrate the success of Lance Valcour, representing NPSTC Associate Member, the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (CITIG).  [See article on Mr. Valcour's award from the Canadian government]

Lance Valcour Awarded Order of Merit Recognizing Lifetime of Exceptional Service

On May 26, 2010, Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada and Commander-in-Chief of Canada, presented the Order of Merit of the Police Forces to Ottawa Police Inspector [ret.] Lance Valcour.  Mr. Valcour represents Associate Member, the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (CITIG), on NPSTC.  The Order of Merit of the Police Forces honors a career of exceptional service or distinctive merit displayed by the men and women of the Canadian Police Services, and recognizes their commitment to this country.  The primary focus is on exceptional merit, contributions to policing and community development.

Valcour Award

Retired Inspector Lance Valcour and his family
with the Governor General of Canada and
Commander-in-Chief of Canada

Retired Inspector Valcour was recognized for his significant contributions to his community and policing.  His research and operational experiences have made him an international leader in the field of criminal investigative best practices, as well as a highly sought-after speaker.

According to a statement issued by the Office of the Chief of Police, Ottawa Police Services, “Lance was a key player in moving forward interoperability work with new technologies such as LEIP [Law Enforcement Information Portal] and voice interoperability.  In 2006, Lance proposed, planned, and identified funding of a research project in Washington, D.C. to investigate American best practices in the area of voice interoperability.  In late 2007, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), Fire, and Emergency Medical Services created the CITIG and, with Lance's guidance, CITIG significantly increased awareness about interoperability challenges.  Further, he facilitated the Canadian Communications Interoperability Plan (CCIP) designed to improve communication between emergency responders.”

NPSTC congratulates Mr. Valcour on his considerable achievements.

Momentum Builds for D Block Allocation to Public Safety


As Donny Jackson said in Urgent Communications on July 22, “Sometimes, a day can make a big difference.  For public safety officials wanting the 700 MHz D Block to be reallocated for a nationwide, broadband wireless network for first responders, yesterday was one of those days.”

The chiefs, sheriffs, emergency managers, EMS, and communications professionals that comprise the Public Safety Alliance, and 40-plus national organizations supporting their position, brought their message to Capitol Hill asking that Congress support reallocation of the D Block to public safety and provide funding for the nationwide public safety broadband network.

PSA representatives met with Congress to gain support for H.R. 5081, introduced in April by Representatives Peter T. King (R-NY) and Yvette Clark (D-NY), and to seek support for the introduction of a companion bill in the Senate.  It was reported that the press conference was well attended by public safety, and a number of Congressional staffers who have been working with members of the PSA on these issues.  There are now 65 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 5081, which transfers the D Block to public safety.


On July 21, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) introduced legislation, The Broadband for First Responders Act of 2010, to provide first responders with more broadband spectrum and direct $11 billion in proceeds from commercial spectrum auctions to the deployment and maintenance of the proposed public safety network.

[APCO's Dick Mirgon left foreground]

“It's time to put first responders first.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a coast-to-coast communications network for our nation's first responders that is secure, robust, and resilient,” said Senator Lieberman.

Also on July 21, Senator Jay Rockefeller IV, (D-WVA), Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, announced his intention to introduce legislation that will provide public safety with 10 additional MHz of spectrum.  “We need a forward-thinking spectrum policy that promotes smart use of our airwaves and provides public safety officials with the wireless resources they need to keep us safe,” Senator Rockefeller said.  He will introduce the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act shortly that will provide public safety with an additional 10 MHz of spectrum to support a national, interoperable wireless broadband network that will help protect people and keep them from harm.  “This spectrum allocation will provide those who wear the shield with the resources they need to do their jobs.  But more than that, by providing authority for incentive auctions, this legislation will offer a revenue stream to assist public safety with the construction and development of their network,” he said.

Finally, on July 29, Representatives Jane Harman (D-CA) and John Shimkus (R-IL) introduced legislation calling for $70 million in grant money to help fund development engineering for mission-critical devices that would operate on 700 MHz LTE networks.  “Directed research and development is essential to achieving interoperability because it will drive down cost and develop devices that public safety has a hand in selecting,” Harman said.  “Equally as important, this bill will accelerate the development of those devices, quickly giving public safety more options with new cost savings to states and localities, and assurance that the technology can be trusted for their important work.”

[Editor's Note: NPSTC is grateful for this demonstration of support for the public safety broadband network and potential funding to support public safety in this critical effort, but, at this time, NPSTC's Governing Board has not voted to specifically endorse any proposed legislation without further study.]

Preceding all this Congressional action, the nation's constituents spoke emphatically.  In April, the so-called "Big Seven" urged Congress to allocate the D Block to public safety.  Letters were sent from the following organizations supporting reallocation of the 700 MHz D Block:  National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, Council of State Governments, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and International City/County Management Association.

The FCC's National Broadband Plan calls for the D Block to be auctioned to commercial users.  Under the FCC plan, if public safety users in an area need more than the 10 MHz of 700 MHz broadband licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), the first-responders would be able to roam onto commercial networks in the 700 MHz band.  At the June NPSTC meeting, Chief Harlin McEwen, Chair, PSST, noted that public safety has chosen LTE as the preferred technology for the nationwide network.  4G technologies like LTE are best suited for bandwidths of greater than 10 MHz.  The public safety community has identified the need for the additional 10 MHz of spectrum in the adjacent D Block to provide the robust data services required by public safety.  Chief McEwen said the public safety community is unified in this effort and has the support of a large segment of the communications industry.

The FCC has continued to state that the D block should be re-auctioned with proceeds going to public safety and, in a disputed FCC Public Safety Capacity White Paper, that first responders don't need the additional 10 MHz of spectrum.

Complicating the issue is the fact that 21 waiver petitioners are ready to begin to build.  On May 11, 2010, the FCC issued an Order giving conditional approval to 21 state and local public safety petitioners to obtain, through a lease from the PSST, access to the 5 MHz x 5 MHz of broadband spectrum licensed to the PSST.  The petitioners are:  Adams County-Denver Airport (CO); Alabama; Bay Area Consortium (CA); Boston (MA); Charlotte (NC); Chesapeake (VA); District of Columbia (DC); Hawaii; Iowa; Los Angeles (CA); Mesa-TOPAZ (AZ); Mississippi; New Jersey, New Mexico; New York City; New York State; Oregon; Pembroke Pines (FL); San Antonio (TX); Seattle (WA); and Wisconsin Counties (WI).

Current law still states that the FCC must auction the D Block, so Congress will need to pass a law to change that, which could take some time.  In the meantime, having key lawmakers direct the FCC to halt plans to auction the D Block would be welcome news for public safety.

NPSTC Welcomes UTC as Its Newest Associate Member

At NPSTC's June 2010 meeting, the member organizations unanimously voted to add the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) as its newest associate member.  Associate Members do not have voting privileges but participate in all other NPSTC activities and are eligible to serve on any committee or task group.  The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (CITIG) are NPSTC's two other associate members.

NPSTC Welcomes UTC

UTC is a global trade association dedicated to creating a favorable business, regulatory, and technological environment for companies that own, manage, or provide critical telecommunications systems in support of their core services.  Founded in 1948 to advocate for the allocation of radio spectrum for power utilities, UTC has evolved into a dynamic organization that represents electric, gas, and water utilities; natural gas pipelines; other critical infrastructure entities, and other industry stakeholders.

Radio and RF spectrum issues were the primary reason for UTC's creation in 1948, and they remain a primary concern of many members.  UTC's Legal/Regulatory Department, working with the Public Policy Division's Spectrum Issues Committee, keeps abreast of the multitude of spectrum policy and compliance issues that can affect specific member networks or provide opportunities for necessary growth.  “We also retain a primary goal of gaining access to dedicated spectrum for the critical infrastructure industries that enable all other economic activity in the nation,” said Donald Vasek, representing UTC at the meeting.

UTC is an FCC-certified frequency coordinator for the Private Land Mobile Radio Services.  UTC is also the sole frequency coordinator authorized to coordinate channels previously allocated to the Part 90 Power Radio Service.  In addition, UTC maintains the national Power Line Carrier (PLC) database for the coordination of PLC use with licensed government radio services in the 10-490 kHz band.  UTC also has been designated by the FCC as the manager of the Access Broadband over Power Line (BPL) database, which houses data related to BPL deployments nationwide.

“UTC's critical infrastructure constituents share many of the same needs, concerns, cost constraints, security imperatives, and required coverage footprints as public safety licensees,” Mr. Vasek said.  “And emergency response is a crucial part of utilities telecommunications just as it is for public safety.”  In seeking to add its voice to NPSTC, Mr. Vasek said, “UTC believes these synergies with public safety makes it uniquely qualified to engage in discussions and activities that can bring our organizations and constituents closer together to attain common goals.”

NPSTC and APCO Make Common Channel Naming Official ANSI Standard

Channel Naming Standard

In June 2010, NPSTC's Common Channel Naming Guide was recognized as a standard by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI).  The issue of common channel naming has been a longstanding issue that was highlighted during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina.  In 2006, NPSTC held a well-attended forum to review and update the Standard Channel Nomenclature recommended in the 700 MHz National Coordination Committee's Final Report.  The new protocol has been widely adopted across the country in the intervening period, and requests to the federal government resulted in finalizing standard names for similar channels in federal agency spectrum earlier this year.

The new standard, APCO/NPSTC ANS 1.104.1-2010:  Nomenclature for the Public Safety Interoperability Channels, provides a standardized naming format for each Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information and Administration (NTIA) designated Interoperability Channel in the Public Safety and Federal government Radio Services.

NPSTC Chair Ralph Haller said that he was pleased to see such a positive step forward in interoperability saying, “Common interoperability channel names will help to assure that any organization responding to an emergency will be able to establish contact immediately when arriving on scene.  Although the specific channel names were initially controversial, the new standard represents the collective efforts of public safety agencies across the country to reach consensus.  NPSTC is pleased to have been instrumental in this process.”

ANSI Standard Fulfills NECP Goal

The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) is a recognized ANSI-accredited Standards Developer for public safety communications standards and was selected to facilitate the most recent version of the Standard Channel Nomenclature document through the ANSI standardization process.  Creating standardized names for the interoperability channels also fulfills an important goal in the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) developed 3 years ago by the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) as a roadmap for interoperable communications for the nation.

“The public safety community uses spectrum allocated by the FCC and NTIA in multiple bands that is replete with interoperability channels,” APCO's Executive Director George Rice said.  “It is necessary to develop and employ a common set of channel names so that all responders to an incident know which channel to tune their radios to, as well as the band and primary use for the channel.”

Proposal for VHF Interoperability Channels

Subsequent to the standard being submitted to ANSI, NPSTC received a proposal from Texas to pair the national VHF tactical channels, VTAC 11-14, so they could be used in a tactical repeater configuration.  The proposal was supported by a number of other states.  They propose to develop three new named VHF pairs:

  • VTAC11/VTAC14 – 151.1375/159.4725 – this pairing has the maximum separation possible for the VTAC channels: 8.335 MHz
  • VTAC12/VTAC13 – 154.4525/158.7375 – separation is 4.285 MHz
  • VTAC13/VTAC14a – 158.7375/159.4725 – separation is 0.735 MHz with a duplexer required, but usable in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands which do not have access to the other channels

This will be a minor modification to the ANSI standard, which is a living document.  The Interoperability Committee welcomes feedback on the proposal.  Send your comments to Interoperability Chair, John Powell at  [For more details about the proposal, see the expanded article, Proposal for Standardized Pairing of VHF Interoperability Channels by John Powell]

Send Us Your Policies and Procedures for the National Interoperability Channels
The Interoperability Committee is receiving requests from the states to develop a standardized set of policy and procedures/rules of use for the national interoperability channels.  Please send any SOPs or best practices on this issue to assist the Channel Naming Working Group to develop a best practices document as a follow-on effort.  Send your best practices to Interoperability Chair, John Powell at

Regulatory Update
by Bette Rinehart

Regulatory Update

Certain Interim Narrowbanding Deadlines Extended

The FCC has extended two of the interim VHF/UHF narrowbanding deadlines in response to a stay request filed by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) in 2009.

The interim deadlines which have been extended until January 1, 2013, are:

  • Prohibition on the manufacture or import of equipment that includes a 25 kHz operational mode
  • Requirement that equipment submitted for certification include a 6.25 kHz operational mode

Interim deadlines which remain in effect for January 1, 2011, are:

  • Prohibition on new or expanded 25 kHz operations.  Such requests will require individual waivers and be handled on a case-by-case basis
  • Prohibition on certification of equipment including a 25 kHz mode

The Commission emphasized its commitment to the January 1, 2013, narrowbanding deadline which it felt would be undermined by permitting additional licensing of systems or certification of equipment utilizing 25 kHz efficiency modes.

The text of the News Release is available at:

The text of the decision is available at:

Mexican Border Rebanding Negotiation Deadlines Extended

There still isn't a new agreement between the United States and Mexico on use of the 800 MHz spectrum so the negotiation period for 800 MHz licensees located along the Mexican border has been extended until October 1, 2010.  Mediation will begin October 2.  The application freeze has been extended until November 16, 2010.

The text of the Public Notice is available at:

Wireless Microphones May Not Operate in 700 MHz Band After June 12, 2010

The FCC released an Enforcement Advisory in June to alert wireless microphone users that they may not operate in the 700 MHz band as of June 12, 2010.  The Public Notice explained that television stations have migrated off this spectrum and that public safety and commercial wireless providers now use the 700 MHz band.  To prevent potential interference to public safety and commercial operations, wireless microphones must cease to operate in 700 MHz (698-806 MHz) band.

The Public Notice provided a website that wireless microphone operators could visit to determine whether or not their equipment was operating in the 700 MHz band and whether it could be modified to operate in a different frequency range.  Users were warned that any microphones operating in the 700 MHz band had to be brought into compliance either by retiring it from use or modifying to operate in a different band.  Failure to comply could result in equipment seizure or fines.

General information on the topic is available at:

The text of the Public Notice is available at:

Comment Sought on PSST's Proposed Budget and Administrative Fees for 700 MHz Public Safety Broadband Waiver Recipients

Comments were due July 9 on the Public Safety Spectrum Trust's (PSST) proposed budget and administrative fees which, in turn, will drive the annual lease fees for use of the public safety broadband spectrum.  The lease fee is only to cover administrative costs and is not a “spectrum use fee.”  The PSST proposed first-year lease fee is $15,000 per lessee.  The FCC must approve the amount of the fee.  The fee in the approved amount would be due 60 days after FCC approval of the lease.  The PSST will submit a budget proposal for the second year of the lease 2 months prior to the end of the first year.  The estimated second year lease fee is $5,000.

A copy of the PSST's proposed budget is available at:

The text of the Public Notice is available at:

Comment Date for Technical Input on Public Safety Broadband Network Extended

In May, the FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on various technical issues related to interoperability, out-of-band emissions, and equipment certification for 700 MHz public safety broadband networks and set the comment deadline for June 17.

One of the broadband early deployment waiver recipients, the District of Columbia, asked for a 1-month extension to the comment deadline because the window for preparing and filing funding requests to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) fell within the same timeframe.  The FCC agreed and has extended the comment deadline until July 19, 2010.  The text of the Public Notice is available at:

NPSTC submitted comments in response to the public notice.  These comments can be accessed on the NPSTC site at:

FCC Announces Information Due Dates for Public Safety Broadband Early Deployment Waiver Grantees

In granting the 21 public safety broadband early deployment waivers, the Commission established certain timeframes for the waiver grantees to provide information, sign spectrum leases with the PSST, and to notify and coordinate with other grantees.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the FCC's requested information collections and the FCC announced due dates for these tasks:

  • Interoperability Showings provided to ERIC:  July 19, 2010
  • Initial Quarterly Reports:  July 19, 2010
  • Spectrum leases executed:  August 18, 2010

The text of the Public Notice is available at:

Members of Technical Advisory Committee to ERIC Announced

Twenty members of the public safety community were selected to serve as members of the Technical Advisory Committee to the FCC's Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC).  The members represent agencies from both coasts, the midwest, and the southwest.

The text of the Public Notice is available at:


One 700 MHz Regional Plan Placed on Public Notice

In June the FCC placed Region 35's (Oregon) 700 MHz Regional Plan on Public Notice.  Comments are due July 1; Replies July 12.  The text of the Public Notice is available at:

FCC Approves One 700 MHz Regional Plan

The FCC approved Region 42's (Virginia) 700 MHz Regional Plan on June 24.  The text of the Public Notice is available at:

Regulatory Update Map
Map courtesy of FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau website

How Much Spectrum Will Public Safety Need in 2020?


In 1996, the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC) published its report on public safety's needs through the year 2010.  That groundbreaking report eventually led to public safety spectrum assignments in the 700 MHz and 4.9 GHz bands.  NPSTC created the PSWAC Followup: Assessment of Future Spectrum and Technology (AFST) Working Group to update the PSWAC Report.

“The AFST Working Group will identify the public safety user communications requirements for the next 10 years, from 2010 to 2020,” says Chair, Joe Ross.  “We'll deliver a final report that will identify the spectrum and technology required to meet the user's operational requirements.  That, in turn, will help drive policy on spectrum, funding, and the public safety vendor community.”

The AFST Working Group has been meeting by teleconference every other week since last November.  The Operations Task Group, led by Boyd Webb, State of Utah, meets on Wednesdays, alternating weeks with the Spectrum and Technology Task Group, led by NPSTC's Spectrum Management Committee Chair, Dave Buchanan.  [For information on how to join the calls, see below.]

The Operations Task Group issued an operational needs questionnaire to understand capacity, technology, and interoperability among other issues in May.  “There have been over 300 responses so far with 200 received in the first week,” says Ross.  The online questionnaire closed on July 15 but any further input is very welcome and can be shared with the Working Group by contacting  Respondents break out in the following categories:  Federal, 3 percent; state, 21; local urban, 21; local/suburban, 25 percent; local/rural, 15; vendors, 3 percent; and 18 percent other.  Responses by function area are also diverse with major spikes in communications and ESF2, says Ross.  ESF2 communications represent 18 percent; firefighting, 10; EMS, 10; search and rescue, 7.5; law enforcement, 8.4 percent; food and water and energy, public works, 6; ESF1, 4.2 percent; and military support, energy, food and water have only 6 responses.  The category of public service, education, schools, sanitation represented 1-2 percent.  There were a few from emergency management, one consultant, and one from a PSAP.

Another question asks what type of communication system is used.  “Answers show predominant use of VHF highband at 15 percent,” Ross says, “with 800 MHz at 13.6 percent; followed by UHF, commercial cellular voice, 11.5 percent; and the lowest usage at 220 MHz.  4.9 GHZ enjoys the highest usage for public safety broadband.”

Responses by Function

Regarding the capacity of their systems, preliminary analysis shows that 63 percent of respondents say they expect dramatic shifts and 54 percent don't expect their current systems to meet their capacity needs.  About half say existing systems do not meet interoperability needs.  Funding seems to be the predominant reason.  Only 37 percent say technology does not meet their operational needs.

Focus Groups Coming Soon to an Area Near You

The Working Group is planning four or five Focus Groups across the nation to capture broadband demand data in various situations.  Various volunteers are needed to host, assemble, and manage the focus groups.  Groups should be composed of both primary and secondary emergency responders, to include most ESFs (transportation, health and hospitals, animal control, etc).  They will research traffic on the network, what type of broadband data is used, such as streaming video or GIS, and who sends the data to whom.

“The Focus Group would also work through one or more scenarios as a part of a discussion to understand the intensity of broadband usage now and into the future,” says Dave Buchanan.  Working Group members have suggested these sites:  (1) California to review wildland firefighting, (2) Florida for a hurricane response, (3) East Coast for flooding, (4) Washington, D.C. for a major building fire, and possibly (5) Houston for a large-scale incident.

The Spectrum and Technology Task Group is in the process of researching and examining tentative spectrum needs models.  They have assembled data on the public safety population, which is much improved over the PSWAC data.  They have a tentative list of areas to model and will look at spectrum needs for voice overall and for the VHF band.  They plan to model some hypothetical situations that would require broadband to develop some idea of needs and potential uses.  “The Spectrum and Technology Task Group will take the information gathered during the Focus Group sessions and use a model to estimate bandwidth and spectrum necessary to accommodate the applications, as well as the possible allocation of applications to different RF bands (4.9 GHz vs. broadband, vs. P25 data),” Buchanan says.

If you'd like to participate in the AFST Working Group teleconferences, calls occur on alternate Thursdays at 3:30 pm EST.  The AFST Operations Task Group call alternates with the AFST Spectrum Task Group call on Wednesdays at 3:00 pm EST.  These calls are open to all interested persons for input and feedback.  The call in and pin numbers are the same for all calls:  (712) 432-2888 PIN 677821#.  For more information, contact Barry Luke, NPSTC Support Office, or Joe Ross,

NIEM: How a Standardized Data Exchange Language Enhances Public Safety

The city of Richmond and York County, Virginia, wanted to enhance the efficiency of transmitting information between an alarm monitoring company and the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) and agreed to serve as pilot sites for a program jointly supported by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Association of Public Safety Communications Officials – International (APCO), the Central Station Alarm Association, and others.

Using an External Alarm IEPD [An Information Exchange Package Documentation is a specification for a data exchange] for electronically transmitting information, in 2 ½ years the pilot program transmitted more than 6,000 alarm exchanges between the alarm company and two PSAPs.  “The benefits were 6,000 fewer telephone calls to the two PSAPs, eliminating the need for calls between the alarm company operator and the PSAP; also eliminating the possibility of miscommunication between them; and a significant decrease in response times to alarm-related calls for service,” says Christopher Traver, Senior Policy Advisor, BJA.  “This resulted in an increase in law enforcement apprehensions made, fires quickly extinguished, and lives saved.”  [To read this full case study and others, visit]

Just as interoperable voice communications are critical for different disciplines and jurisdictions to communicate, in order to turn data into knowledge that can be shared and analyzed computers need a standard interoperable “language”.  The National information Exchange Model (NIEM) provides that shared language.  Developed through a partnership between the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, NIEM is an information-sharing program that develops, disseminates, and supports information exchange standards and processes and that can enable jurisdictions to effectively share critical information in emergency situations, as well as support the day-to-day operations of agencies throughout the nation.

A variety of emergency situations in recent years have demonstrated in increasingly vivid detail the inability of jurisdictions and agencies to effectively share information, and the tragic consequences that often result.  Terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and large-scale criminal incidents reveal the weaknesses of the nation's information-sharing infrastructure.  Even daily local events that involve multiple agencies such as fire and law enforcement illustrate the challenges to sharing information.

Providing immediate access to timely, accurate, and complete information, and sharing critical data at key decision points throughout the whole of the justice and public safety enterprise are key objectives of the NIEM program.  NIEM is not just about technology or making systems perform better, but about making major improvements in the way information is shared throughout the nation.

NIEM builds on the success of the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM), a model for data standardization that began as a justice-centric program but has grown to include DHS and a variety of partners to share information on a national basis.  The NIEM exchange development methodology results in a common semantic understanding among participating organizations and data formatted in a semantically consistent manner.  NIEM will standardize content (actual data exchange standards), provide tools, and manage processes.  NIEM is transport agnostic – it doesn't matter what system is used to move the content.

In addition to being a data model, NIEM also provides governance of that information and brings stakeholders together who have never talked before.  NIEM is governed by “domains” or communities of interest gathered in a common purpose.  The largest is the justice domain; smaller ones include immigration and nuclear detection.  “There is currently no public safety domain,” Traver said, “and BJA would like to add a public safety domain to assist in efforts like promoting interoperability.”

Examples of NIEM national use cases include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI's) National Data Exchange which standardizes incident reporting and collection and analysis on a national basis.  Every interconnection from federal to state to local uses the NIEM data standard.  The Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative also relies on NIEM to share information on suspicious activity nationwide with fusion and other analysis centers.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) supports the NIEM solution and urges federal agencies to use NIEM as the de facto standard for government information sharing.  For more information, visit  The website includes a robust training program and a help desk.

Proposal for Standardized Pairing of VHF Interoperability Channels
by John Powell


Unlike the UTAC [Ultra High Frequency Tactical Channel] channels, which are composed of paired frequencies for repeater operation, there are no nationwide VTAC [Very High Frequency Tactical Channel] repeater pairs.  VTAC17 is available only in certain areas of the western United States.

Stakeholders in Texas have expressed a need for two statewide interoperability channel pairs for transportable repeaters.  Follow-on discussions with VHF stakeholders in other states (CA, NE, OK, and WY) have likewise led to a general consensus that this is a good idea and worth further discussion.  Although too late to include in the initial publication of the APCO/ANSI/NPSTC Channel Naming Standard, a “best practice” determined by appropriate stakeholder representatives could be given national exposure in the upcoming revision of the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide (NIFOG) and subsequently added in the first revision to the Naming Standard as early as August 2010.

These new names would be modifications to the ANSI/APCO/NPSTC channel tables and are a minor change to the standard, so do not require a public comment period.  They can be implemented quickly once consensus is reached within the user community.

Points to Consider


  1. Which frequencies to pair; frequency separation; Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands restrictions
  2. CTCSS (Continuous tone coded squelch system) use
  3. Operating practices
    1. Primary pair and secondary pair
    2. Shared use and priority

Discussion and Recommendations


  1. Frequency Separation:  Wide frequency separation between input and output allows repeater operation without a duplexer, primarily relying on receive/transmit antenna separation.  The following available pairings were considered:
    1. VTAC11/VTAC14 – 151.1375/159.4725 – this pairing has the maximum separation possible for the VTAC channels: 8.335 MHz
    2. VTAC12/VTAC13 – 154.4525/158.7375 – separation is 4.285 MHz
    3. VTAC11/VTAC13 – 151.1375/158.7375 – separation is 7.6 MHz
    4. VTAC12/VTAC14 – 154.4525/159.4725 – separation is 5.02 MHz
    5. VTAC13/VTAC14 – 158.7375/159.4725 – separation is 0.735 MHz – duplexer required, but usable in PR/VI
  2. Available names and name recommendations for repeater channels:
    1. VTAC15, VTAC16, VTAC18, and VTAC19 were considered.  However, with hope for future additions of national VHF channels (including designating 155.1600 MHz for national SAR), it was decided to hold these in reserve.
    2. VTAC33 to VTAC38 are also available.  Because these selected pairings can be operated either way (high-in/low-out or vice versa), we propose the following:
      Name    = Pair (repeater input/output)
      VTAC33 = VTAC11/VTAC14 separation 8.335 MHz
      VTAC34 = VTAC12/VTAC13 separation 4.285 MHz
      VTAC35 = VTAC13/VTAC14 separation 0.735 (for PR/USVI only)
    3. Because many parts of the country follow the Federal Government standard of high-in, low-out, the following pairing is also proposed to support co-siting these channels with Federal users:
      Name    = Pair (repeater input/output)
      VTAC36 = VTAC14/VTAC11 separation 8.335 MHz
      VTAC37 = VTAC13/VTAC12 separation 4.285 MHz
      VTAC38 = VTAC14/VTAC13 separation 0.735 (for PR/USVI only)
  3. CTCSS recommendation:  To provide for controlled repeater access, and to keep two repeaters within range of each other, but paired oppositely (e.g., one on VTAC33 and the other on VTAC36), from locking up, the following tone recommendation is made:
    1. CTCSS 136.5 Hz on repeater input, CSQ on repeater output
  4. Operational Use:
    1. Repeater use should have no priority over simplex use and must be coordinated at the scene of all incidents.
    2. To preserve simplex channel availability, designate a primary and secondary repeater pair.  For example:  If one transportable repeater is used, it should be on VTAC 33 or 36 (VTAC11/VTAC14 paired).  If a second is needed, it should be on VTAC34 or 37 (VTAC12/VTAC13 paired) with the understanding that there would remain no available simplex VTAC channels.  VTAC13 and/or VTAC14 could be used as talk-around in either or both such use cases, at the risk of being interfered with by repeater users who can't hear the talk-around transmissions.
    3. VTAC35/38 (VTAC13/VTAC14 paired) should be used as a repeater pair only in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands where VTAC11 and VTAC12 are unavailable.
    4. It is strongly recommended that portable repeaters be activated only when called for by a Communications Unit Leader (COML) as documented on an ICS Form 205 for an incident.
    5. If multiple incidents are operating in the same vicinity, channel assignments must be coordinated between the individual incident COMLs or, preferably, by a Communications Coordinator (COMC) serving that region.

FCC Licensing

Mobiles and portables utilizing frequencies designated for interoperability in the VHF, UHF, 700 and 800 MHz bands are licensed by rule.  For channels below 512 MHz, FCC 00-348, paragraph 90 states, “Under our Rules, an entity must have a license to operate a base or control station on these interoperability channels (i.e., a blanket licensing approach).  Mobile operation, however, is permitted on these channels without an individual license.  Public safety licensees who are eligible to hold a Part 90 license, or who are otherwise licensed under Part 90 of our Rules, can operate mobile units on these interoperability channels without an individual license.”  Footnote 286 to this paragraph states that, “As with the 800 MHz National Public Safety Planning Advisory Committee (NPSPAC) mutual aid channels, base and control stations must be licensed individually.  Because transportable repeaters (FCC station class FB2T) fall into the base station category, these must be individually licensed.”

COMLs Get a National Registry

COML National Registry

States and territories agree, the role of the Communications Unit Leader (COML) is critically important, and the requests for training have been one of the most sought after types of technical assistance the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) offers.  The Type 3 COML course trains emergency responders to be Communications Unit Leaders during all-hazard emergency operations, significantly improving communications across multiple disciplines and jurisdictions.

The role of COML was developed in response to the need for a cadre of individuals who are knowledgeable, trained, and certified to support communications during incidents managed under ICS.  The position descriptions for COML and other functions within the Communications Unit (particularly the Communications Technician or COMT), were developed by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) over the past three decades, directed exclusively toward managing large wildfires and using equipment in the VHF and UHF bands, though NWCG resources are available for other disasters and large events if not already committed to wildfire response.

“The need for COML training has been highlighted for over 15 years, with an initial focus group meeting of national public safety leadership organizations hosted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in May 2003 calling for development of a training program,” says John Powell, a member of the Working Group.  “With the SAFECOM Executive Committee subsequently giving COML training a high priority, a national Working Group of local, state, and federal practitioners was formed with initial meetings coordinated by SEARCH, funded by the DHS Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC) and supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Incident Management Systems Integration Division (IMSID), with direct input from the emergency response community.”  The Working Group built upon time-tested core competencies and training curriculum defined for the COML position by the NWGG, modifying them to be all-hazard and targeting Type 3 incidents.1

Wrap-up meetings of the Working Group and the Federal FY 2009 nationwide rollout of the training were funded by OEC.  The OEC-sponsored classes, now transferred to the states, have trained well over 2,000 students and have been a huge success.  The class is comprised of 24 hours of classroom work, followed by student completion of a COML Position Specific Task Book.  [COML requirements, forms, and history]

The Task Book management and certification has been transferred to individual states and territories.  A proposal for a national registry, the National Registry for Emergency Communications Technicians (NRECT), in which states and territories could participate was drafted by several individuals from the original COML Working Group.  “The group has produced a charter and bylaws documents,” says Lt. Chris Lombard, Seattle Fire Department, also a member of the Working Group, “and has been promoting a national registry and reaching out to associations for support and feedback, but had not found a home for the national registry until now.”

The Stephenson Disaster Management Institute (SDMI) housed at Louisiana State University will manage the NRECT, which will be a national communications registry that will maintain the records of those first responders that have obtained a level of proficiency that qualifies them to communicate during an emergency or disaster.  SDMI will serve as a third party agency that can vet the level of training provided by other organizations to ensure a standard level of proficiency within the industry, and issue credentials and certificates that will identify and recognize the qualifications of those that have passed the criteria established by the board of the NRECT.  “COML training will continue to be a separate activity,” Lombard says.

For more information on NRECT, visit

Why We Need Cross-Border Agreements

Cross Border Agreements

The U.S./Canadian border runs through the middle of the towns of Stanstead, Quebec, and Derby Line, Vermont.  Drinking water comes through Canada.  Derby Line shares emergency crews with Stanstead.  Each responds to calls on both sides of the border.

Kind of Funny:  The situation came to a head in Derby Line recently when a local man was arrested.  “I walked over to Canada on a Saturday night around quarter to nine to get a pizza,” Buzz Roy explained.  Roy walked down Church Street to the nearest pizza shop, which happens to be in Canada, and said that, to his surprise, he was stopped by state police and told that crossing on Church Street is illegal.  Eventually Roy was arrested by the Border Patrol and told he was going to be fined $500.

Not Funny at All:  The Border Patrol has a job to do under difficult circumstances.  Last year, Border Patrol agents pulled over the drivers of two vans after they crossed into the United States on Church Street and headed south on Interstate 91 without reporting to the port of entry.  In the vans, the agents discovered 21 illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Mexico, and Guyana.  The drivers were two New York men who were later sentenced to prison time and probation.

And a Complicating Reality:  Paramedics cross the border every day, and, when they do, they are practicing medicine without a license, using their radios illegally, and carrying narcotics across the border.  Rules need to be changed to facilitate cross-border public safety efforts.

Positive Steps Are Underway

At NPSTC's June 2010 meeting, Terry LaValley, Border Issues Working Group Chair, reported on challenges along the U.S./Canadian borders, and some promising proposals to solve some of those problems, including providing first responders with official authorization to operate their radio systems along and across border.

“Fifty-nine years ago this need was recognized,” Mr. LaValley said.  The 1952 Convention between the U.S. and Canada, agreed upon certain conditions to operate certain radio equipment or stations in the other's country, and it is still a valid agreement.  Article II in that agreement authorized public safety to operate mobile radios along and across the border.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said the rule is still valid for mobile radios.

In May, the FCC and Industry Canada (IC) attended a meeting in Ottawa where the 1952 Convention was discussed.  The U.S. delegation proposed to Canada that consideration be given to amending the 1952 Convention to add new language that would specifically address handheld units and would permit users in one country to access base stations in the other country.  Representatives from Canada agreed to look into the process of seeking authority to amend the 1952 Convention and also agreed to investigate the possibility of adopting the provisions on a temporary basis.  The FCC is investigating whether it is appropriate to reference the convention in Section 90.179 (2) of the rules which details the provisions under which facilities in the private land mobile radio service may be shared.

Another positive step has been the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between U.S. Border Patrol (BP) Swanton and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) C-Division to use a cross-banding solution.  Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBETS) agents on either side of the border in the Vermont/Champlain, New York region can call their respective dispatch and request a patch be enabled.  RCMP requested a license through IC for use of a BP VHF channel, and CBP provided a memo authorizing RCMP to operate on BP channels for law enforcement purposes.  The authorization was granted.  RCMP provided a similar memo to allow BP to use a RCMP UHF channel on U.S. soil.  BP is waiting for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to authorize the use of the frequency on U.S. soil.

800 MHz Regional Planning Committee (RPC) 55 Petition for Rulemaking

As the 800 MHz rebanding has occurred, the status of the five NPSPAC interoperability mutual aid channels in the Canadian border region has become clouded.

Region 55 (New York-Buffalo) filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the FCC entitled, In the Matter of Improving Public Safety Communications in the 800 MHz Band WT Docket 02-55, New 800 MHz Band Plan for U.S.-Canada Border Regions, requesting clarification of the status of the five interoperability mutual aid channels in the 800 MHz NPSPAC band.  There are fewer or no interoperability channels designated in the Order.  The Second R&O DA 08-1094 states the following:

“As proposed in the FNPRM, we establish new mutual aid channels with 25 kHz spacing in the new border area National Public Safety Planning Advisory Committee (NPSPAC) band plan to match the mutual aid channels in the non-border NPSPAC band plan.  In addition, we will maintain the existing cross-border mutual aid channels in the former NPSPAC band that are situated on U.S. primary spectrum for continued mutual aid use on the Canadian side of the border.  (83) These channels will be designated as Canadian primary channels, so that Canadian public safety systems can continue using them on the Canadian side of the border for interoperability.

In regions 1, 4, 5 and 6, the existing cross-border mutual aid channels that will be maintained are:

  • 822.5125/867.5125 MHz
  • 823.0125/868.0125 MHz

In Region 3, the existing mutual aid channels that will be maintained are:

  • 821.5125/866.5125 MHz
  • 822.0125/867.0125 MHz
  • 822.5125/867.5125 MHz
  • 823.0125/868.0125 MHz

There are no cross-border mutual aid channels on U.S primary spectrum in Regions 2 (Region 55 RPC), 7, or 8.

In the previous arrangement between Canada and the U.S., both countries agreed that the following paired channels are to be available as public safety mutual aid channels:

  • 821.0125 MHz calling/866.0125 MHz calling
  • 821.5125 MHz/866.5125 MHz
  • 822.0125 MHz/867.0125 MHz
  • 822.5125 MHz/867.5125 MHz
  • 823.0125 MHz/868.0125 MHz

The Agreement also stated that, “These channels are available to both countries in all areas.  Usage of these channels in the border area may be locally coordinated in accordance with the general sharing principles.  These channels are to be 25 kHz wide, and within the Sharing and Protection Zones neither country shall assign any frequencies closer than 25 kHz to any of these mutual aid channels.”

Region 55 filed in September, “specifically seeking to allow public safety primary use of old NPSPAC” frequencies (866-869 MHz ) in Region 55 to facilitate cross-border mutual aid, and further to protect all international mutual aid operations on these channels from potential interference from ESMR (Enhanced Specialized Mobile Radio) licenses operating in the United States within the Canadian Border Region.

The National Regional Planning Council (NRPC) filed in November asking that the Order “permit all Canadian border region licensees to continue to operate on the 866-869 MHz former international mutual aid channels.”  The Petition is still under consideration and the FCC will probably solicit public comments.

For more information about the Border Issues Working Group, contact Terry LaValley, at

Since We Last Met

PSHSB Seeks Comment on NPSTC's Petition for Rulemaking to Allow Aircraft Voice Operations on Secondary Trunking Channels in the 700 MHz Band

In March 2010, NPSTC filed a petition that suggested allowing secondary non-interoperability aircraft operations on interoperability channels, subject to state approval.  NPSTC also recommended that aircraft operations be limited to 2 watts.  In response to the FCC's request for comments, public safety and industry voiced strong support for NPSTC's plan for secondary use.  They asked the FCC to launch a rulemaking to draft regulations to allow public safety aircraft voice operations on 700 MHz band narrowband spectrum designated for secondary trunking use.

NPSTC's own comments reiterated earlier points made in the PFR.  "There are no frequencies in either the 700 or 800 MHz band identified for air-to-ground communications, an increasingly important tool for public safety.  NPSTC believes that there are substantive public safety communications requirements across the country that could be satisfied by recommendations in its Petition.  Given the broader viewpoint from the sky, public safety personnel in aircraft can significantly assist with on-scene coordination for law enforcement and serve as a key resource for fire suppression operations.  In addition, public safety aircraft are of great assistance in speeding the transport of trauma victims to hospitals so advanced treatment can be provided expeditiously.  In all these cases, communications to and from the public safety aircraft are essential to successful operations."

The comments added, "A recent inquiry of the Commission's Universal License System (ULS) shows that the specific secondary use 700 MHz channels recommended by NPSTC in its Petition are not currently licensed to any public safety organization.  However, in the event the Commission were to issue a license for "secondary trunking" on the recommended channels, air-to-ground use could still be managed by the appropriate 700 MHz Regional Planning Committee (RPC) and/or Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) to help avoid interference," NPSTC said.

NPSTC's Petition was prompted by a request for help from the state of Maryland, which is establishing a statewide, interoperable public safety network.  The State said "that this Petition represents a critical step in providing 700 MHz channels for first responder aircraft operations.  Maryland also suggests that the issues identified in the Petition are of a nationwide and international scope meriting a national rule making by the FCC."

The National Regional Planning Council (NRPC) weighed in saying the FCC "should initiate a rulemaking proceeding to consider the NPSTC proposal as well as any other flexible, coordinated use of Narrowband Secondary Trunked 700 MHz Public Safety Channels.  Their rulemaking should also request comment and consider similar use for Narrowband Reserve 700 MHz Public Safety Channels.  In these times of dramatic technology advancements combined with a desire for greater public safety capabilities and performance, the NRPC feels that periodically revisiting rules and scope associated with existing public safety spectrum allocations, in this case the public safety 700 MHz band, offers the best opportunities for spectrum efficiencies and effectiveness."

To view comments from other states and entities, visit

NPSTC filed an Ex Parte Letter and Report with the FCC Regarding LightSquared on June 15 and Comments on LightSquared's Alternative Plan on July 30

The June 15, 2011, letter stated, "In its previous letter of January 25, 2011, NPSTC emphasized the need to ensure public safety use of GPS is protected from potential interference that could result by the proposed LightSquared system deployment.  Public safety relies on the reception of GPS for wireless 9-1-1 location, dispatch of "closest responder" based on GPS location, mapping/response directions to responders based on GPS, synchronization of simulcast systems across the country based on GPS time signals and a myriad of other mission critical functions.

The testing conducted confirmed that interference to public safety operations will occur and NPSTC has summarized insight gained into the extent of the interference and some potential mitigation procedures.  NPSTC's July 30 comments state, "... it is clear that the testing done to date confirms significant interference problems will occur if LightSquared's upper channel is deployed.  NPSTC would like equal assurance that interference problems will not occur when only the lower channel is deployed and believes additional testing and analysis of the results is needed under a rational schedule."

On May 26, 2011, NPSTC Filed a Request for Clarification on TETRA

NPSTC submitted a Request for Clarification of the Commission's waiver of the rules to permit certification and use of TETRA equipment, subject to certain conditions, pending the outcome of the rulemaking proceeding.  This request for clarification relates only to operation on the 821–824/866–869 MHz band segment under the waiver.  At the recent NPSTC meeting May 16 and 17 in Washington, DC, the waiver and NPRM were discussed and public safety representatives raised concerns about the impact to interoperability of enabling TETRA technology in the public safety bands.

On April 26, 2011 the Commission issued a combined Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding proposed rules relating to TETRA equipment certification and operation and an Order which granted in part a request for waiver by the TETRA Association, pending outcome of the rulemaking proceeding.  The Commission granted the waiver of sections 90.209 and 90.210 of the rules concerning authorized bandwidth and emission limits, subject to certain conditions.

Under the waiver Order, the Commission indicated TETRA equipment certification will be authorized for the 450–470 MHz and 817–824/862–869 MHz bands.  The waiver decision also limits TETRA operation to Industrial/Business Pool frequencies in the 450–470 MHz band, and ESMR frequencies in the 800 MHz band.  Further, as noted in the waiver Order, "The issues of TETRA use in the public safety bands and with cellular-like architecture will be addressed in the rulemaking proceeding."  NPSTC believes clarification is needed that operation is not allowed under the waiver on the 821–824/866–869 MHz portion of the band for which equipment certification is being authorized because that segment of the "ESMR band" is still being used for public safety, pending completion of 800 MHz rebanding.

NPSTC is concerned that without such clarification, there could be some confusion whether or not TETRA is allowed under the waiver in the 821–824/866–869 MHz portion of the band.  Clarity is needed regarding operation in the various segments of the 817–824/862–869 MHz spectrum because both public safety operations and ESMR operations are currently allowed in the upper 3 +3 MHz of that band.  Also, given the issues the Commission raises in the NPRM about interoperability in public safety, NPSTC concurs that the issue of operation on bands used by public safety is a subject for the rulemaking proceeding and not the waiver.

NPSTC requested that the Commission provide the requested clarification on an expedited basis to ensure its intentions regarding TETRA operation in 821–824/866–869 MHz portion of the band still being used by public safety are clear for the public safety community.

You Are Invited to Attend the "Enabling Interoperability Workshop" in Montreal, Canada, September 15, 2011, Hosted by the Wireless Innovation Forum (SDR Forum version 2.0)

Communications interoperability is critical to the success of public safety and military operations.  Too often communications between services, agencies, or jurisdictions have been hampered by incompatible radio systems.  The problem is well known (fractured spectrum bands, incompatible radio services, governance and policies), but the solutions to solve it are still costly.  The Workshop will explore how various technologies can be utilized to improve communications between services, agencies, or jurisdictions that have historically been hampered by incompatible radio systems operating on different protocols or frequencies.  The workshop will cross commercial, defense and public safety domains, and will include a look at both requirements and regulations.

The questions that will be addressed are how to funnel development to ensure a true interoperable system that can be acquired at reasonable cost.  What are the main requirements and barriers for military and public safety organizations?  What is the commercial sector working on, or should be working on, to solve the interoperability issues?  How can, or should, governments, which regulate frequency allocations, adapt regulations to facilitate interoperability?

The Wireless Innovation Forum also extends the invitation to all attendees to participate in the Forum's meeting, which will be held on September 12, 13, and 14.  Working sessions on Public Safety and Disaster Recovery Communications systems will be included those days.  To register for the Interoperability Workshop, visit

The Wireless Innovation Forum Workshop on "Enabling Interoperability" takes place in Montreal on September 15, 2011 (see as part of the conference being held September 12 to 15.  The goal of the workshop is to explore how various technologies can be utilized to improve communications between services, agencies, or jurisdictions that have historically been hampered by incompatible radio systems operating on different protocols or frequencies.  The workshop will cross commercial, public safety and defense domains, and will include a look at both requirements and regulations.  See details and the complete agenda at

Don't miss these upcoming events (details at

  • The Wireless Innovation Forum Workshop on Enabling Interoperability, September 15 in Montreal.
  • Fourth Annual Vendor Outreach Forum, October 18 and 19 in Vancouver.
  • SecureTech 2011, October 25, 26 2011 in Ottawa.
  • The APCO Annual Conference, November 6 to 9 in Ottawa.
  • The Fifth Canadian Public Safety Interoperability Workshop:  A CITIG National Forum, December 4 to 7, 2011 in Ottawa.


Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) of the FCC's Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) Adopts Recommendations

In June, the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) adopted recommendations to help develop a technical framework for the deployment of a nationwide public safety broadband network.  The PSAC adopted reports from its applications and user requirements, interoperability, security and authentication, and network evolution working groups and agreed to ask the PSHSB to convene its next meeting for late September so it can tackle the sensitive topic of governance.  The governance piece is still being debated in Congress, while coverage will depend on funding and other issues that are still undecided.

"We're not ready today to make the kind of commitments that some are suggesting," said Harlin McEwen, Chairman of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police representative to NPSTC, according to TRDaily's Paul Kirby.  Chief McEwen said the eventual public safety spectrum license holder needs flexibility to manage the network.

TRDaily also reported the applications and user requirements working group recommended a variety of apps be included in any network, including an emergency function, a Global Positioning System capability, and emergency alerts.  The PSAC amended language that said the nationwide governing authority should "control" which applications are permitted on the network to say it should adopt standards and manage those apps.

The interoperability working group discussed at length how far to go in the recommendations.  It recommended the use of LTE (long term evolution) Release 8, even though Release 10 is about to be approved.  The security and authentication working group suggested the adoption of a "risk-based methodology" for security authentication.  It wants mandatory implementation of standard LTE security features.

A key recommendation of the network evolution working group is that public safety lag in the deployment of commercial technology, in order to allow the commercial sector to conduct testing of equipment and devices and ensure they are mature, which is why the PSAC decided to recommend an earlier version of the LTE standard.  Some committee members said it could take years for vendors to build equipment for a new standard – time public safety agencies would not want to be waiting.  The network evolution working group also stressed the importance of a road map for deploying technology, which it said could help ensure interoperability and coverage.

Important Dates
Date Event Location
August 1–5 APCO Houston, TX
August 5 FCC Open Commission Meeting Washington, DC
August 23–26 AAHSTO Irvine, CA
August 24–28 IAFC FRI Chicago, IL
September 9 SAFECOM EC Boulder, CO
September 13–15 CITIG Windsor, Canada
September 16–17 NPSTC Orlando, FL
September 16 FCC Open Commission Meeting Washington, DC
September 26–29 NASCIO Miami, FL
Publication Information

npstc quarterly is the newsletter of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC).  NPSTC is a federation of organizations whose mission is to improve public safety communications and interoperability through collaborative leadership.  Funding for the NPSTC newsletter is provided by the Department of Homeland Security, Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC) and the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC).  We welcome questions, comments, and story ideas.  Please contact the Support Office at (866) 807-4755 or by email at

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