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'Mission-Critical' Broadband Driving Government Nets

The prime example is New York's planned emergency communications network, expected to cover 95% of the city and provide officials with enhanced mobile wireless services like high-speed data and video.
RESTON, Va. — As local and regional authorities begin constructing broadband wireless networks, potential contractors are stressing "mission-critical broadband" as a solution for public safety applications.

The prime example is New York City's planned emergency communications network. The city-owned network is expected to cover 95 percent of the Big Apple, providing police, firefighters and transportation officials with enhanced mobile wireless services like high-speed data and video capabilities.

Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Information Technologies unit (McLean, Va.) won a contract last month to build the mission-critical network. The company said the contract to upgrade New York's emergency communications network could be worth as much as $500 million.

Mark Adams, chief architect for networks and communications at Northrop Grumman, told a wireless conference here on Wednesday (Oct. 4) that the project seeks to integrate emergency services into a secure, interoperable wireless network.

"Government users need to be able to communicate everywhere, all the time," Adams said in defining "mission-critical" networks. Northrop Grumman's task will be combining traditional land-mobile radio communications with broadband wireless data and video capabilities so that public safety personnel can stay connected and share information in an emergency.

The New York emergency network is expected to deliver 1 megabit/s or better data rates, capabilties that current wireless networks can't consistently provide.

Other cities are also pursuing the mission-critical broadband wireless model. Washington, DC, has released a request for proposals to build a city-owned broadband wireless network that can be used primarily for public safety applications.

Adams said Northrop Grumman helped the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, build what is so far the largest city-owned wireless network in the U.S. The Wi-Fi network is used for applications ranging from meter reading to public safety.