Introduction

The Oklahoma Public Safety Broadband Network (OKPSBN) Project Team conducted a 13-stop demonstration tour around the State of Oklahoma to bring Band 14 LTE deployable capability to First Responders and public safety stakeholders. The objective of the tour was to demonstrate devices and applications operating through a Band 14 network in a portable deployment scenario. Performing these deployments on a daily basis for two weeks provided the team with the opportunity to experience how the equipment operates in several different scenarios, and overcome various network and data application-based obstacles. Additionally, it demonstrated to participants how a dedicated nationwide public safety broadband network could influence data communications during day-to-day operations, incidents, exercises, and planned events. The equipment was deployed and decommissioned at each stop, giving the Project Team real world experience with various Band 14 deployment scenarios. The Project Team interacted with 343 First Responders and public safety stakeholders throughout the demonstration tour. The tour also included one full day at the Oklahoma State Capitol for education and outreach to Oklahoma legislators, executives, as well as the general public.

As part of this project, Parallel Wireless had the privilege of providing many of the essential components to this early adopter network. Thanks to our compact, lightweight in-vehicle eNodeB, and thanks to self-configuration capabilities of our HetNet Gateway, these deployments were truly ‘plug-n-play’ as deployments could be accomplished in as little as 20 minutes. Over this two week process and in all 13 locations (from urban to rural), our LTE-in-a-box solution (known as Bring Your Own Coverage, or BYOC) allowed users to experience just how fast and easy Band 14 LTE can be deployed in case of an emergency.

Purpose and Scope

The purpose of the demonstration tour was twofold;

  1. To provide education and outreach on the FirstNet initiative to potential end users of the network, and,
  2. To give First Responders experience deploying a Band 14 network in different scenarios to determine best practices for future implementation.

The demonstration tour was limited to two weeks by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Special Temporary Authority (STA) license to operate on the Band 14 Spectrum. The STA was issued two weeks before the start of the tour, and was authorized from January 31, 2017 through February 14, 2017.

Band 14 Roadshow Ecosystem

The OKPSBN Project Team received strong participation in putting together the demonstration tour. Applications and devices were made available from several suppliers: handheld smartphones, dual mode LMR/LTE capable devices, dual mode LTE/Wi-Fi mobile Routers, an Evolved Node Base Station (eNodeB)/Evolved Packet Core (EPC), a LMR to LTE communications kit, and several applications for geolocation, video monitoring, and situational awareness. The suppliers listed below provided this equipment/applications:

  • Parallel Wireless – CWS eNodeB, locally embedded HetNet Gateway network orchestrator & EPC
  • Harris Corporation – UEs, Wi-Fi router, various apps
  • Motorola – LMR radios & various apps
  • Mutualink – LMR to IP Go Kit, UHF radios, dispatch application
  • Sonim – XP7 smartphones
  • GeoSafe – GeoSafe application demonstration
  • Avigilon – high resolution camera system
  • InterAct/OCSO – MobileCop application demonstration

Network Diagram

The key part of the network was the Converged Wireless System (CWS) Band 14 LTE eNodeB, which provided the Band 14 LTE coverage area at each demonstration venue, and the embedded EPC with HetNet Gateway (HNG) that provided automated network optimization; both were provided by Parallel Wireless. The integration of the eNodeB and EPC on-site provided the opportunity to operate independently from a core, or connect to an outside FirstNet core. This capability (known as Bring Your Own Coverage, or BYOC) allows responders to literally bring the coverage with them wherever they go, which is a more cost-effective alternative to building out coverage to every square foot of the country. Operating inside the Band 14 coverage area, the Motorola, Harris, and Sonim devices connected to each other and the Internet through the eNodeB/EPC. The diagram below depicts the network as deployed.

This BYOC capability will be crucial to meeting the FirstNet vision. Current deployable solutions are bulky, expensive, timely to deploy, and if an agency/region does not own one, they could be waiting hours or even days for one to arrive. This can be the difference between life and death in an emergency.

 

The in-vehicle CWS from Parallel Wireless that was used in these deployments is lightweight so First Responders can bring coverage with them wherever they go (can easily fit in a backpack or trunk of a car). This allows them to fill coverage holes such as underground parking garages, in buildings, or even areas where there is no existing network infrastructure (when accompanied by embedded EPC). CWS is also self-configured by HetNet Gateway (HNG) from Parallel Wireless, so installation is easy and almost instant, having been deployed by FBI technicians and even repo men in as little as 20 minutes! This saves precious time in emergency response.

Additionally, this equipment is very cost-effective as it is built entirely from commodity components. This allows each agency to have their own deployable solution, regardless of their size or budget. Because it is also ruggedized and resilient (thanks to dynamic traffic rerouting and self-healing capabilities enabled by HNG), the same equipment can be used day-to-day as well as in emergencies – no more waiting for bulky, expensive COWS to arrive!

Results

The Wi-Fi coverage area typically covered the demonstration areas very effectively. Informal walk around tests were initially conducted to verify the coverage environment. It was determined that within 100 feet, the signal strength ranged from very good to excellent, and transfer rates were satisfactory. During the Executive Session in the Oklahoma State Capitol, the demonstration was performed in the Rotunda on the second floor.

The Band 14 coverage area in the 2nd Floor Rotunda of the Capitol building provided an opportunity to conduct informal range testing. With the eNodeB located on a table, the Rotunda coverage area (including the wings attached to the Rotunda) was reliable to more than 150 feet (the limit that could be walked), in each direction. The Rotunda is a concrete and stone building with marble floors and plenty of reinforcement, which makes it a difficult building to cover with wireless devices. Nonetheless, this solution was able to provide the necessary coverage.

The State Capitol deployment also provided an excellent opportunity to understand what it would be like to set up and operate in a very busy, loud, and noisy environment, analogous to operating in a temporary situation.

In-building coverage was also provided during the ‘Destroy Horton’ Wildland & EMS School demonstration hosted at Fort Sill. The building was well covered on all floors within 150 feet of the deployment area in the middle of the building on the first floor. This is important to FirstNet because it means that the same low-cost deployable solution can provide public safety coverage both indoors and out.

Conclusion

Overall, the demonstration tour was very successful. The Project Team had great support from the equipment and application suppliers, interacted with 343 potential end users, and received a variety of valuable comments and feedback over the course of the demonstration. The comments and feedback were positive in nature with many of the attendees anxious to “get on the air” with the future nationwide public safety broadband network.