By Richard Mirgon, Public Safety Consultant
As I was writing some comments on social media the other day I had to go back and look at the legislation that brought us FirstNet and the requirement that FirstNet be built using commercial standards. That entire section was very purposeful at the time and today it has worked out to the benefit of public safety. We have seen that public safety can now get public safety grade devices at reasonable prices. We see applications being developed at record speeds and innovation happening unlike anything ever seen by public safety.
One segment of that innovation is related to HPUE or High-Power User Equipment. HPUE is part of the secret sauce of the FirstNet Network. Many users don’t realize that the power outputs of spectrum usage is regulated by the FCC and is critical to the range of the user devices. Back in the old days a public safety handheld might have a power output of 7 watts. After a few years it was 5 watts, then 4 and so on. Not only did FCC regulation drive some of that, but the manufacturers reduced the power levels to improve battery life for the handheld. This wasn’t noticed much by large city departments with many repeater sites, but it was noticed in rural areas that were on the fringe of repeater coverage. Many agencies became victim to the reduced power.
Today with FirstNet smart devices, public safety agencies have a solution that helps to extend coverage for FirstNet and that is HPUE. HPUE operates in Band 14, your public safety band, and is not allowed in any other LTE bands. FirstNet Built with AT&T has named this MegaRange and one of the two new devices built for HPUE and public safety is called AirgainConnect by Airgain, Inc. What makes this device so unique is that the radio is built into the antenna module. Because there is no longer a coax cable between the radio and the antenna there is no loss of signal. They then use an Ethernet cable along with an Ethernet Injector to carry the data between the radio and data module. By combining the radio and antenna into the same module they get a stronger signal, improving connectivity to the cell site.
We are seeing a lot positive progress by FirstNet and partner companies like Airgain. Andy Seybold recently released a whitepaper talking about all the benefits of MegaRange and AirgainConnect. (You can find this whitepaper on Andy’s site at http://andrewseybold.com ). The fact that we have major companies like Airgain building unique devices for first responders is something to shout about. This is made possible because public safety through FirstNet is focused on commercial standards for our technology. The fact that we can take those standards and harden the devices to make them purpose built for first responders has always been the goal and it’s working.
Public safety should never forget the positive lessons learned by this public-private partnership using commercial standards. The days of public safety using unique proprietary technology should be in the past never to raise its ugly head again. We have learned how we can take commercial standards and shape them to meet our needs and Airgain is only one clear example of that.
Richard Mirgon is a Public Safety consultant focused on FirstNet. He is a Past President of APCO International and has over 35 years of public safety and first responder experience. For more information about the author please go to http://www.next-paradigm.com/about/
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this company or any company with whom the author may be associated.