[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 176 (Monday, September 12, 2011)]
[Pages 56165-56167]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-23180]



National Institute of Standards and Technology

[Docket No.: 110727437-1433-01]

Soliciting Input on Research and Development Priorities for 
Desirable Features of a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network

AGENCY: National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of 

ACTION: Notice and request for comment.


SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Commerce's (DoC) National Institute of 
Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking input on various possible 
features of a new nationwide interoperable public safety broadband 
network. This input will be used by NIST to help determine research and 
development priorities in anticipation of the President's Wireless 
Innovation (WIN) Fund to help drive innovation of next-generation 
network technologies.

DATES: Comments are requested by 5 p.m. EDT on October 12, 2011.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be sent to Dereck Orr, [email protected].

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dereck Orr, Office of Law Enforcement 
Standards, National Institute of Standards and Technology, 325 
Broadway, Boulder, Colorado 80305, telephone number (303) 497-5400. Mr. 
Orr's e-mail address is [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The public safety community (law 
enforcement, fire, and emergency medical service) is experiencing a 
generational shift in technology that will revolutionize the way it 
communicates. Traditionally, emergency responders have used land mobile 
radio technology. This technology has limited data capabilities and 
suffers from a large installed base of thousands of stand-alone 
proprietary systems with non-contiguous spectrum assignments. As a 
result, public safety has long struggled with effective cross-agency/
jurisdiction communications and lags far behind the commercial sector 
in data capability. Congressional legislation has made broadband 
spectrum that was cleared by the transition from analog to digital 
broadcast television (referred to as the Digital Television (DTV) 
Transition) available to public safety for broadband communications. 
The newly available spectrum will allow for a unified system operating 
on common spectrum bands, fostering nationwide roaming, 
interoperability, and access to broadband data. However, public safety 
has several unique requirements that are not currently reflected in 
broadband technology.
    In August 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented 
Policing Services (COPS) office held the National Forum on Public 
Safety Broadband Needs. More than 20 public safety practitioners 
identified the following 15 operational requirements, each of which 
relate to at least four overarching themes (resiliency, availability 
and reliability, security, and affordability/commercial alignment):
    (1) A dedicated high-quality network connection always available 
for sending and receiving continual data streams to support monitoring 
and resource tracking;
    (2) At a minimum, access to initial and updated basic incident 
information (voice- and text-based incident data);
    (3) An infrastructure that is hardened and secure, providing a high 
level of system availability;
    (4) When voice is converged for normal operations and in the event 
the infrastructure is compromised, public safety communications must 
remain stable and with clear voice communications;
     Infrastructure-less communications, with talk-around for 
the ability to talk one-to-one and one-to-many
     Optimal audio quality during adverse field conditions
     No latency on mission critical voice applications
    (5) Geographic coverage that has no limitations within the 
footprint of the National Public Safety Broadband Network;
    (6) Dynamic management and control of the network;
    (7) Interoperability, including with existing public safety-based 
    (8) Ability to send and receive large amounts of information;
    (9) A non-proprietary network based on industry standards;
    (10) Single devices that support voice, video, and data;
    (11) Access to and from external information sources;
    (12) Easy integration with other technologies;
    (13) Automatic management and control of the network;
    (14) Current and future enhancements available to commercial 
consumers are provided to public safety with no limitations; and
    (15) Ability to send, receive, and process information from the 
public (citizens and media).
    The COPS report is available at:  http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/files/RIC/Publications/e021111338-broadband-forum.pdf.
    Since then, the Obama Administration has announced its support for 
legislation that would create a not-for-profit Public Safety Broadband 
Corporation to oversee the deployment of a nationwide network that 
meets the needs of local, state, Tribal, and Federal public safety 
communities.\1\ The Administration has also proposed a $3 billion WIN 
Fund to help drive innovation through research, experimentation, 
testbeds, and applied development. Of the $3 billion, $500 million will 
be devoted to research and development (R&D) for the new public safety 
broadband network.\2\ The Public Safety Innovation Fund (PSIF), NIST's 
component of the proposed WIN Fund, helps spur the development of 
cutting-edge wireless technologies. NIST is working with industry, its 
Federal partners and public safety organizations to conduct R&D to 
support new standards, technologies and applications to advance public 
safety communications. Core components of this program include 
documenting public safety requirements and driving the adoption of 
those requirements into the appropriate standards; developing the 
capability for communications between currently deployed public safety 
narrowband systems and the future nationwide broadband network; and 
establishing a roadmap that seeks to capture and address public 
safety's needs beyond what can be provided by the current generation of 
broadband technology and driving technological progress in that 
direction. Through pre-competitive research, development, reference 
applications, and demonstration projects, NIST will accomplish these 

    \1\ Comments of the National Telecommunications and Information 
Administration before the Federal Communications Commission in the 
matter of Service Rules for the 698-747, 747-762 and 777-792 Band 
(WT Docket No. 06-150); Implementing a Nationwide, Broadband, 
Interoperable Public Safety Network in the 700 MHz Band (PS Docket 
No. 06-229); Amendment of Part 90 of the Commission's Rules (WP 
Docket No. 07-100).  http://www.ntia.doc.gov/filings/2011/NTIA_Public_Safety_Network_Comments_06102011.pdf.
    \2\ President Obama Details Plan to Win the Future through 
Expanded Wireless Access. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/02/10/president-obama-details-plan-win-future-through-expanded-wireless-access.

    In pursuit of these goals, NIST seeks comments on the following 
possible features of the nationwide public safety broadband network. 
These more

[[Page 56166]]

technical features were identified by the NIST Visiting Committee on 
Advanced Technology with the input of public safety and their 
identified operational requirements. Among other things, NIST seeks to 
understand the extent to which these features and requirements can be 
satisfied through existing commercially available technology or though 
technology that could become available in the relative short-term, 
assuming appropriate research and development. Information obtained 
from this solicitation will be used to inform the potential use of 
grant funds to spur innovation in those areas not currently 
    Feature List (organized around the four overarching themes noted 
    To ensure resiliency in an emergency:
     Resiliency: The ability of operable systems to recover 
from mishap, change, misfortune, or variation in mission or operating 

    \3\ http://publicsafety.fcc.gov/pshs/clearinghouse/core-concepts/resiliency.htm.

     Self-Organizing: Self-organizing networks dynamically 
manage their own configuration by automatically making changes to 
ensure messages reach their destinations.\4\

    \4\ http://www.wina.org/WireSol/Documents/Whitepaper%20-%20Self%20Organizing%20Networks%20for%20In-Plant%20Applications.pdf.

     Meshing (ad-hoc device-to-device communication): A type of 
networking where each node must not only capture and disseminate its 
own data, but also serve as a relay for other sensor nodes, that is, it 
must collaborate to propagate the data in the network.\5\

    \5\ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesh_networking.

     Adaptability: The ability of the network and/or device to 
modify/change behavior based upon external conditions.
    To ensure reliability and availability:
     Prioritization: The ability to prioritize network traffic 
based on assigned priority schemes.
     Quality of Service (QoS): The set of standards and 
mechanisms for ensuring high-quality performance for critical 
applications. By using QoS mechanisms, network administrators can use 
existing resources efficiently and ensure the required level of service 
without reactively expanding or over-provisioning their networks. The 
goal of QoS is to provide preferential delivery service for the 
applications that need it by ensuring sufficient bandwidth, controlling 
latency and jitter, and reducing data loss.\6\

    \6\ http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc757120(WS.10).aspx.

    To enable security:
     Strong, Dynamic Access Control: Access control lists can 
be configured to control both inbound and outbound traffic on networks 
and authentication/verification of users/devices on the network.\7\ The 
level of access control should be sufficient to allow for entree into a 
broad set of systems and databases needed by public safety (e.g., 
criminal history databases, medical records, public work records, 

    \7\ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Access_control_list.

    To ensure affordability/commercial alignment:
     Compatibility with Commercial Infrastructure: The 
utilization of a variety of commercial services when public safety is 
in areas not covered by the public safety broadband network.
     Network sharing: The shared use of infrastructure between 
commercial and public safety users.
     Multi-Modal: The ability of the network to support voice, 
video, data, and multimedia simultaneously.
     Scalability: The ability of a system, network, or process 
to handle growing amounts of work in a graceful manner or its ability 
to be enlarged to accommodate that growth.\8\ At the design phase, this 
could include requirements to ensure that scalability can be achieved, 
to the extent possible, by software enhancements and upgrades as 
opposed to by hardware replacements. Scalability also includes the 
need, in the case of a large scale event, to accommodate a rapid 
increase in the number of users in a limited geographic area.

    \8\ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scalability.

     Power Awareness: The ability of network/devices to control 
power functions.
     Standardized Common Interfaces: Protocols, Application 
Program Interfaces, application platforms, radio capabilities, etc. 
that allow for competitive provisioning.
     Uniform, Universal Access: The ability to access the 
network and data anywhere at any time through any device.

Request for Comments

    For each feature listed above, NIST is requesting input on the 
     Your assessment of the importance of the feature in 
relation to a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network;
     Current gaps that exist preventing the realization of the 
full potential of the feature;
     Possible research and development that could take place to 
close any technical gaps;
     Any challenges that public safety could face in realizing 
the full potential of these features given currently implemented 
     Best practices from other industries that could be 
leveraged to expedite public safety's realization of these key 
    Additionally, NIST is requesting input on the following further 
considerations for the nationwide public safety network:
     What is the importance of employing open standards for the 
nationwide public safety network?
     What is the need, if any, for commonality of functions 
across the system?
     What is the importance of a multi-vendor environment for 
the network and what are the lessons learned in deploying a multi-
vendor environment from the cellular and other industries?
     What can be done to ensure both short- and long-term 
affordability of the network for all types of public safety agencies?
     In a recent report, the President's Council of Advisors on 
Science and Technology suggested the need to develop methods for 
implementing a ``survivable core'' of cyber-infrastructure that would 
be relied upon to provide truly essential services in the event of a 
catastrophic cyber-attack.\9\ Please comment on how NIST should pursue 
this recommendation. Among other things, commenters should address 
whether the goal should be to design a separate survivable core that is 
integrated and interoperable with the primary public safety network, or 
instead to design the primary network such that it can reconstitute 
rapidly--following a catastrophic event--to achieve some ``core'' level 
of service.

    \9\ President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 
Report to the President and Congress (Dec. 2010) (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-nitrd-report-2010.pdf), pp. 55-56.

     What is the marginal cost of the feature/functionality 
versus equipment available today?
     What network features or requirements have not been 
identified above, the lack of which may impair the network's ability to 
adequately serve the needs of public safety?
     How should NIST engage public safety practitioners and 
technologists as part of the planned R&D projects to ensure proper 
prioritization of efforts and effectiveness of developed solutions?
    This request for information coincides with other work NIST is 
doing to support the nationwide public safety broadband network, 
including a demonstration network from the Public

[[Page 56167]]

Safety Communications Research program in Boulder, Colorado.\10\

    \10\ http://www.pscr.gov/projects/broadband/700mhz_demo_net/700mhz_ps_demo_net.php.

    Dated: September 6, 2011.
Willie E. May,
Associate Director for Laboratory Programs.
[FR Doc. 2011-23180 Filed 9-9-11; 8:45 am]