The Police, PPDR & The Digital Dividend

PPDR is an acronym for Public Protection and Disaster Relief, and in the context of New Zealand’s Digital Dividend spectrum, it stands for a new cellular data network that New Zealand’s Police want to build alongside existing commercial carriers 2° Mobile, Telecom, and Vodafone. The Police have been interested in such a network for several years, and a government working group for the issue has existed since 2006.

The network proposed by Police for the 700MHz Digital Dividend band is separate from and in addition to the Tait-supplied digital mobile radio network based on the APCO P25 standard. The Tait P25 network is being put in to upgrade Police radios, while the Digital Dividend PPDR network is intended to provide high-speed data communications to First Responders.

Media coverage of the Police’s proposed PPDR network has been absent to date, and no real information exists on how far along it may be. Public records show that Tait hold several temporary broadband licenses in the 700MHz band, so a functional trial network could be surmised. The first real public discussion of the nascent network however has occurred during the MED’s Digital Dividend spectrum consultation process.

In the Digital Dividend discussion document (pdf), the Ministry states:

Emergency services agencies in New Zealand and abroad are interested in provisioning for the future use of broadband and wideband communications applications, such as remote access to databases and live video streaming. A reservation of some 700 MHz spectrum would be one mechanism to allow for this.

They make a few arguments both for and against reserving Digital Dividend spectrum for PPDR use, and then pose the question to all participants in the consultation process:

Q7. Should a reservation for PPDR broadband use be made in the 700 MHz band? Why? Why not?

The response from parties participating in the Digital Dividend consultation process was a resounding No. Twenty-one responders answered with an unambiguous “No”, listed in black on the left. A dozen responders declined to address the issue, or provided an ambiguous, non-supportive answer. These are listed in grey on the left. Of the six positive responses, listed in black on the right, only “Primary Focus” has no obvious connection to the Police. The table below illustrates:

Both Motorola and Tait have an interest in supplying to a potential PPDR network. APCO Australia is the “Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials” – an industry group supporting Police communications. ETSSG is the Emergency Telecommunications Services Steering Group – the government working group established in 2006 to investigate a whole of government radio network.

From the reaction of the providers, industry groups, and other responders, it’s clear there is little support for setting aside any Digital Dividend spectrum for a Public Protection and Disaster Relief network. The question now is how can the Police achieve their requirements through use of commercially available services?

One thought on “The Police, PPDR & The Digital Dividend

  1. In supporting an allocation of the 700MHz band for PPDR, it is the case that Primary Focus has no connection with the police.

    Neither do we have an interest in locking the spectrum up for commercial imperatives, nor are we stuck in the paradigm of the spectrum being exclusively for mobile broadband use. These are the reasons that the question received a resounding no.

    You support the mobile-centric use of the spectrum and argue self-interest of those supporting a PPDR allocation in the 700MHz band to support your position. That is a pity because the digital dividend band has the potential to achieve real gains for rural New Zealand denied broadband services comparable to what the UFB will deliver. More importantly, at least in my mind, is the potential to make the spectrum available for building resilient community broadband networks and move our society away from the hegemony of corporate control of ICT infrastructure. Which is where a PPDR allocation fits in.


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