Sedalia has been selected as a test market for a new first responders’ network, and local law enforcement and other members of the Sedalia first responders’ community learned about the opportunity Thursday evening.
Representatives from Persistent Telecom, based in New Jersey, spoke with members of the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office, Pettis County Commission, Sedalia Fire Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Sedalia City Council and Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Management Agency at Hotel Bothwell to explain its Sustainable Communications Network (SCN).
According to FirstNet.gov, “the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) as an independent authority within NTIA to provide emergency responders with the first nationwide, high-speed, broadband network dedicated to public safety.” The creation was spurred by the need for better communication during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina or terrorist attacks like Sept. 11, 2001.
Earlier in November, FirstNet launched an Innovation and Test Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. However, Persistent Telecom (PT) has decided to step out on its own to self-fund and build what it is calling a “Demonstration Network,” a secure, private LTE network for first responders, which is not sponsored or affiliated with FirstNet.
“We’ve decided we wanted to take a different approach and build something that was much lower cost,” Robin Gamble, of PT, said during the presentation. “The problem with the cellphone networks is once they lose the Internet or once they lose power or once they lose fiber, they go down. So if we could build a cell phone network that was interconnected over satellite, it would not be vulnerable to any other catastrophes or terrorist attacks.”
Gamble told the Democrat after Thursday’s presentation that the company searched the country for affordable LTE spectrum licenses and found four, one being in Sedalia. Sedalia was selected because it is home to the Missouri State Fair.
According to a timeline, the goal is to test and evaluate the network performance before and during the Missouri State Fair, then compile results to refine the SCN and start the test over again. The company’s plan is to use Sedalia as a laboratory for testing the LTE network, then share the best practices it finds with communities around the country so they can replicate their own first responder network.
According to information provided Thursday by PT, the SCN will use nanoSAT Call Processing, which is a mobile phone system created by PT that “works over satellite backhaul and is impervious to network outages.”
“Over the next year and a half what we’d like to do is build out a private network, we’ll invite anyone who’s interested, we’ll give you a smartphone, we’ll give you a SIM card, it’ll only work on the private network,” Gamble said. “It’ll work when nothing else works, and you can use it for whatever normal business that you do.”
Those in attendance voiced some concerns, such as how far the signal can reach. Gamble never gave a specific answer, but said that from the LTE tower PT installed last week on the roof of Hotel Bothwell, it can reach Bothwell Regional Health Center and the Missouri State Fairgrounds. Gamble was informed during the presentation by a MSHP representative that typically 200 troopers are in Sedalia for the Fair.
“Two hundred cars, 200 state troopers, I don’t think we could support that many, but certainly we could support a growing number of them,” Gamble said.
Those in attendance also heard from a representative from Elbit Systems, which has created a First Responder Application for smartphones. The application allows calling and video calling, sharing multimedia, posting multimedia to a map during investigations, GPS tracking and other features tailored to first responders.
Thursday’s presentation was a request for support and participation by local first responders to help test the new SCN. Since local entities would be helping test the network and products, there would be no cost to join PT’s initial effort and the smartphones and application would be provided for free. While some entities expressed some interest, no official agreements have been made.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.