FCC creates public safety interoperability center
The FCC is moving ahead with a recommendation under its National Broadband Plan to create a center dedicated to solving the long-standing issue of interoperability on public safety networks.
The Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) will work to create nationwide interoperability standards for first responders, the equivalent of nationwide roaming for consumers.
“[ERIC] will serve as the driving force for the development of standards that will bring true interoperability to public safety broadband networks nationwide,” said FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett. “It is critical that public safety networks be built out hand-in-hand with 4G commercial technologies to help with the deployment of viable, interoperable broadband services for America’s first responders. … This is the cornerstone toward solving the 9/11 interoperability problem, and I am confident that the leadership and expertise of ERIC and its staff will help us move forward exponentially.”
The FCC says ERIC will adopt and implement technical requirements and procedures for nationwide interoperability; mechanisms to address operability, roaming, priority access, gateway functions and interfaces, and interconnectivity of public safety broadband wireless networks; as well as authentication and encryption requirements for public safety broadband applications and network usage.
The center will be created under the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB). The FCC also plans to partner with the Department of Homeland Security and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure “that interoperability exists from the outset in the construction and operation of the public safety nationwide wireless broadband network in the 700 MHz band.”
Under the broadband plan, the FCC wants to open the 700 MHz D Block for commercial use, while giving public safety access to the spectrum for roaming. Public safety workers currently operate on a variety of scattered frequencies and generally cannot communicate across networks on different bands because of the technology they use.
The FCC wants to spend $6.5 billion over the next 10 years to deploy a nationwide LTE network for first responders. The total costs of the network could hit $16 billion when including funds for the ERIC service and other programs related to the network.