Minnesota Public-Safety LTE Study Estimates $332M for Statewide Buildout
May 30, 2012
A new study estimates that it would cost $332 million to build a public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) network that meets mission-critical requirements for the state of Minnesota, in addition to $16 million in annual operating expenditures.
Using the Minnesota study as a model, it would cost about $16 billion to $17 billion to build the nationwide public-safety broadband network, said Brandon Abley, technical coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), Division of Emergency Communication Networks. Minnesota would need 521 sites total. The state operates a statewide Project 25 (P25) radio system with 252 sites on the air and 324 state-owned sites total planned by early 2013. After including existing locally owned radio sites, Minnesota would need 141 additional new sites for adequate LTE coverage.
The preliminary design provided more than 95 percent in-building coverage within the state’s five largest cities — Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Cloud, Duluth and Rochester. Hip-worn device coverage was at least 98 percent in suburban counties of the state, as well as more than 95 percent outdoor mobile coverage in each county.
The study also estimated the breakeven point for the network based on the revenue per user considering many public-safety users subscribe to commercial data services. Using the state’s radio system as a benchmark with 50,000 current active units and up to 100,000 planned, the state would need 60,000 to 70,000 users paying about $48 a month for the network to be reasonably competitive with commercial services and sustainable.
Consulting firm Televate conducted the study, which included five parts — user needs assessment, statement of network requirements, carrier assessment, implementation and funding. Last week, Televate announced its FirstNet planning services
The federal government is creating the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to oversee the governance model for the nationwide network. Under the model, states can join the nationwide network or deploy their own state radio access networks. If a state opts out of the nationwide network, the state must submit an alternative plan showing interoperability compliance with the nationwide network for FCC approval.
“We’d like to work with the board to help develop a national model that works for us rather than advising our governor to opt out and go it alone,” Abley said. “We’ve long advocated for a national governance model.”
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is a principal user of the statewide P25 system and owns the backbone infrastructure. The state DPS provides funding for construction, operations and maintenance of the network. Abley said partnerships with transportation agencies and utilities are essential for the success of the nationwide broadband network. “There are other entities that can come to the table to help build the network,” he said.
“We’d like to build those into the national model for utilities and transit agencies or private entities or whoever else it works out for. We want to make sure that kind of partnership works and works well.”
The user needs assessment found that high-resolution streaming video, telemetry, geographical information systems (GIS) and geolocation of personnel were applications of interest. Televate conducted interviews with 42 survey participants and compiled data from 175 Web survey respondents for the user needs findings.
Minnesota doesn’t have a 700 MHz public-safety broadband wavier from the FCC, and it hasn’t requested one; the state doesn’t have grant money to build a broadband network either. “On any technology adoption curve, those in the middle seem to get the most benefit,” Abley said. “We didn’t want to do it too early or without a national model or knowing how much spectrum we have. There’s a lot of other preparation we can do to make sure the project goes right.”
The funding section of the study said that the state could inventory state and local asset and resources, as well as understand partnership opportunities to plan for network funding. “Specifically, a model whereby the state relies on funding expected to be available from federal sources, and funding expected to be available from state, local, regional and federal sources within the state, are not expected to fully build out the system nor sustain its ongoing operations,” the report said. “However, with further study of state and local resources, it may be feasible that portions of the state could be constructed and sustained.”
The full study is available here