Wireless networking the focus of public safety communication

Wired networking, Einstein said, 'is a kind of very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. ' And radio operates exactly the same way: You send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.'

Einstein's catless network is rapidly becoming the top cat in public safety communications, according to local government speakers at a session on wireless networking at FOSE's E-Town.

Montgomery County, Md., government has 44 dedicated 802.11b wireless hot spots to public safety mobile users, said Barbara Garrard, chief of enterprise infrastructure for Montgomery County's Technology Services Department.

At times, the WiFi connection was the most cost-effective kind of connectivity available, Garrard said. In some cases, to connect a building to the county's fiber-optic network from across the street would have been prohibitively expensive. 'You would have had to dig an underground cable, and it would have cost a fortune,' Garrard said.

Always be on the lookout for rogue access points to wireless networks, Garrard said. 'If you don't implement a wireless network, someone else in your organization will, but without centrally managed security.'

Joe Ross, wireless programs director for the District of Columbia's Office of the Chief Technology Officer, talked about the importance of a dedicated public safety spectrum. The District is part of a growing coalition of state and local governments that is asking Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to allocate at an additional 10 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band for public safety use. Public safety needs the additional 10 MHz for wide-area mobile applications such as video and geographic information system data.

The events of Sept. 11 showed the importance of a cohesive public safety communication network, Ross said. Even in an ice storm, if the lines come down, public safety organizations still need to communicate.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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