The Sixth Canadian Public Safety Interoperability Workshop was held December 2-5 in Toronto, Ontario. Hosted by the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (CITIG), the workshop was focused on increasing understanding of interoperability issues facing Canadian first responders today, and what local, regional, provincial, and inter-provincial agencies are working towards.
Key topics included the continued development of the Communications Interoperability Strategy for Canada, trends in voice and data interoperability technology, and 700MHz broadband for mission critical voice data. In addition, a live demonstration of 3D In-building location and tracking for firefighters was executed on Saturday, December 1.
The effort to create a dedicated public safety broadband network for Canadian first responders is markedly similar to the US effort, but with a few key differences:
- Canadian first responders have overwhelmingly spoken out in favor of reserving the same spectrum allocations that the US has: the “D” Block in the 700MHz band.
- In an October 2012 survey conducted by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA), the majority of respondents disagreed with the idea of offering commercial services to the general public on this spectrum. This would be different than the current proposed network architecture for the US Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) put forward during the FirstNet Board of Director’s meeting on September 25, 2012. The FirstNet proposal would leverage commercial infrastructure and spectrum by allowing commercial carriers to operate in unused public safety spectrum.
- The same survey also identified prioritization and pre-emption as critical needs on the network. These issues are being discussed by US public safety groups, such as the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) and the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO), in their efforts to document public safety requirements for broadband technologies.
- Public Safety Canada, an existing government body, was identified as the department that should lead the effort and own the spectrum license. In contrast, the US passed legislation in February 2012 (PL 112-96) that created an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) called the First Responders Network Authority (FirstNet) to be responsible for the build out, management, and maintenance of the network.
Keeping in mind the vast border that the US shares with Canada, it will be interesting to see how the two nations collaborate or coordinate on their respective network build out efforts and what, if any, interoperability issues could arise.