Federal radio spectrum allocation great news for public safety

Photo collage of E-Comm calltaker and first responders

First responders and public safety organizations across the country welcomed the Federal Government’s recent budget announcement to designate an additional 10 MHz of radio spectrum and $3 million to begin developing a broadband wireless network dedicated to public safety. This means a full 20 MHz of Canada’s 700 MHz broadband spectrum is being allocated exclusively for the establishment of a national public safety broadband network (PSBN), which will enable secure, high-speed, wireless access to information and multimedia services over a wide area. 

Ultimately, this will mean first responders will have enhanced communication tools to help them save lives, protect property, solve crimes and increase responder and public safety.

“The allocation of additional spectrum is a significant milestone and will ensure we have the capabilities needed to serve the public and first responders as emergency communications needs evolve for the future.” 

Mike Webb,
E-Comm Vice-President of
Technology Services

The PSBN will be built to provide enhanced operational capability for first responders, including the ability to receive text, data, audio and video through secure mobile devices, similar to smartphones used by the public.  The new network will also enable Next Generation 9-1-1 technologies that will be introduced in the coming years, resulting in greater capacity and more secure information-sharing among police, fire, ambulance and other emergency service personnel.  Because its access and use will be limited to public safety agencies, critical information will be able to be sent and received even when public networks are overloaded, which happens frequently due to the proliferation of smartphones being used by the public at large-scale events (e.g. sporting events or major fires, etc.). Funding is expected to commence in 2016 for a two-year period to support coordination, development and administration activities associated with the creation of the national PSBN.

Photo collage with E-Comm calltaker

“The allocation of additional spectrum is a significant milestone and will ensure we have the capabilities needed to serve the public and first responders as emergency communications needs evolve for the future,” explained E-Comm’s Vice-President of Technology Services Mike Webb. “Not having to compete with the public for the same network capacity as we do today will be particularly important to our first responders during large-scale events, in which massive amounts of mission-critical data, such as photos and videos, need to be transmitted,”  Webb added.

From a longer term perspective, the PSBN will be able to integrate with E-Comm’s next generation radio system (scheduled to be completed by end of 2017), extending the communications services provided to E-Comm’s radio partners to additional users, devices and geographic areas.

E-Comm has been an early and active participant in liaising with the provincial agencies and stakeholders involved with the establishment of the PSBN. The emergency communications centre will continue to collaborate with the Canadian Interoperability Interest Group and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and Paramedic Chiefs of Canada in submitting responses to Industry Canada’s public consultation for the next steps in establishing the network.