Public safety network expands, state looks for new users

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The state is looking for more users for a public safety network meant for first responders.

KRQE News 13 first told you about this dedicated network when law enforcement tested it out at the New Mexico State Fair.

When first responders put this network to the test, they used what’s known as a COW or cellular on wheels as a wireless carrier. Yet, there are six fixed sites on permanent towers for this public safety network, now ready to provide LTE communications.

“The state of New Mexico now, they’re actually adding users to that public safety network today,” said General Dynamics Mission Systems Director of Public Safety Programs Richard Coleman.

Coleman works with the company managing the network. He says these fixed sites are mostly in remote areas- Santa Fe, Santa Teresa and Eddy County. In Santa Teresa, Coleman says they’re working with federal partners like customs and border patrol. In Santa Fe and Eddy County, he says they’re looking for users to enroll in the network.

With more users, he says New Mexico can recoup some of the costs for that initial network deployment. Plus, New Mexico officials say the more users the greater the return on investment and the more they can build out into the more rural areas.

Coleman says these are just a few reasons why there’s a want and a need to expand the network across the state.

“The same thing that we’ve seen in the public commercial networks where you have the network and then you have the applications and you have these unique devices, that same thing will happen in the public safety community as well and so the faster we can grow this network, the more innovation we’ll see come to New Mexico public safety,” said Coleman.

New Mexico’s Department of Information Technology says they are already expanding the number of users when it comes to large scale events. At the fair, they had 30 devices on site with 25 in use at any given time. Now, at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, they have 70 on site and topped out at 42 users with more expected.

They will not use the fixed locations at Balloon Fiesta because they’re too far away. Instead, COWs are in use.

The department says they will deploy as many devices as they have to get the word out. While they had a grant to get the system off the ground, they’ll now have to recoup costs through user fees. They add, they’re also looking towards a nationwide build out.

“It isn’t a build it and they will come. We really do need that user community to come to us and give us the specifications, give us the information about what works and what doesn’t work and what they’re lacking, what they need from their communications services,” explained New Mexico Deputy Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Information Technology Jacque Miller.

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