New Jersey’s first-ever real-world implementation of FirstNet was an unqualified success, setting a precedent for effectively using the National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) to improve communications, security and situational awareness at large-scale public events. The Atlantic City Police Department, in conjunction with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHSP), deployed secure and portable technology during two concerts, allowing reliable, uninterrupted transmission of video, voice and radio communications without reliance on commercial broadband providers. The concerts – Maroon 5 on August 16 and Rascal Flatts on August 20 – took place in front of a combined audience of nearly 100,000 fans.
During large events, tens of thousands of cell phone users compete for the limited resources of cell phone networks, resulting in poor data transmission, dropped and incomplete calls. What might be a minor inconvenience to concert fans could result in a dangerous situation for first responders, who, until now needed to rely on the same cell phone towers to conduct security operations. FirstNet was created to solve this growing problem by deploying a dedicated wireless broadband network for the nation’s first responders.
JerseyNet is a FirstNet Early Builder project, and the only statewide Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) in the country. JerseyNet focuses on deployable assets equipped with microwave backhaul and Mutualink interoperable communications technology.
During the concerts in Atlantic City, the police department’s Mobile Communications Unit (MCU) and several trailer-mounted surveillance cameras were connected to JerseyNet, allowing unobstructed sharing of data between the field resources and the police command. This data was shared within the command structure and across the network with other supporting agencies, including the New Jersey State Police and emergency medical service providers, who were able to view the information and video on fixed workstations and portable smart devices using Mutualink.
“Video assets are paramount with events like the beach concerts where crowd density is elevated. Real time, reliable video acts as a force multiplier and gives the added ability to deploy reaction teams to precise locations to deal with emergencies or prevent an incident from escalating, ” said Deputy Chief William Mazur Incident Commander for Atlantic City Beach Concerts.
The deployable networks are made possible through Cells on Wheels (COWs), Systems on Wheels (SOWs) and Tactical Collaboration Nodes. Mutualink provides secure multimedia interoperability in the SOWs, as well as the Tactical Collaboration node. Their use at the concerts provides a proof of concept milestone.
The technology performed flawlessly, with police officials reporting “Zero Loss of Data” during the busy events. In previous experiences, first responders were crippled by the loss of data and connectivity resulting from overuse of the commercial LTE frequencies, which compromised the utility of command vehicles and surveillance cameras.
“This was the first time during a large, densely populated event that we were able to maintain a constant real-time video stream, and this vastly improved the situational awareness for everyone involved with securing these events,” said Lieutenant James A. Sarkos Atlantic City Police Department BTOP Project Manager.
The Tactical Collaboration Node developed by Mutualink is an extension of Mutualink’s mobile interoperability solution offering, which includes a smaller GoKit, in use by public safety and emergency management customers, as well as the Ops Fusion Kit, a military-grade product. Following the success of the Tactical Collaboration Node in connection with JerseyNet, Mutualink modified the GoKit design to include Band 14 capability as an optional upgrade.
“JerseyNet has successfully demonstrated that FirstNet and Mutualink solve broadband connectivity and interoperability problems during large-scale events, or emergencies where cell communications are degraded or lost,” said Colin McWay, President of Mutualink. “New Jersey’s innovative and effective mobile deployment has established a best practice for future FirstNet roll-outs in other states.”