Despite the promise that the 4.9 GHz band brings to public safety services and applications, it's not the Holy Grail for addressing spectrum shortage concerns or for ushering in new applications. Michael Martin, senior managing consultant of global business services for IBM Canada Ltd., says the manner in which Industry Canada has decided to license the spectrum could actually prove to be a deterrent to the band's adoption. "There seems to be a disconnect between what we're hearing from our clients versus what Industry Canada has put forward for them to be able to do in this band," he tells Report on Wireless. Police forces for example expect that their data connectivity and applications will perform the same way as their two-way radios do. Walkie talkies, which largely operate at the 800 MHz band, have little difficulty operating in heavily treed areas and can operate to well below ground level. The 4.9 GHz band doesn't afford this type of functionality, though, says to Martin. "Physics step in here and there's no way the 4.9 GHz will propagate through trees in a moving vehicle, and there's no way it's going to propagate into two sub-basements," Martin explains, illustrating the disconnect between public safety requirements and the spectrum. In a presentation to the North American Wireless Cities Summit in Vancouver last month, a representative from the City of London in Ontario talked about that municipality's evaluation of various bands to support public safety operations. Joe Lee, manager of metering technologies at the city, explained that London wanted to have all of its public safety services in the same band. But, he said, a network built in the 4.9 GHz band didn't offer enough capacity to support services for the network's stakeholders. He said the city also tested the licence-exempt 5.8 GHz band, but first responders didn't want to rely on an unlicensed band in which they wouldn't get any protection against interfering systems. On a secondary, but equally important, level, Industry's decision to prioritize users of the spectrum has created some problems as well. The department established three levels of users with category one being first responders and category three being those organizations with the lowest need for spectrum. First responders - police, fire and ambulance - get first crack at the spectrum but the municipality only controls police and fire with ambulance services being a provincial jurisdiction. As well, hydro services are considered the lowest priority services, while forestry services find themselves in the second category. So is there a solution?Martin says there isn't a one-size fits all solution when it comes to applications. "One of the problems we're facing as consultants is that our customers want to put 10 pounds in a five-pound bag. They want every one of their city employees to be connected into this one solution, and that's probably not practical," he explains. "What is practical is to look at two or three frequencies to do the job." The 5.8 GHz band represents significant potential for public safety organizations. Martin notes that it is very attractive, has some "huge capabilities" but echoes Lee's sentiment that cities are worried about the interference factor. Given this reality, one of the remaining viable bands for public safety is the 700 MHz frequencies - spectrum that houses some of the analog TV channels. In Canada, channels 63 and 68 have been freed up for public safety, but they are only being viewed for additional voice systems. Two more channels - 64 and 69 - will be opened up soon. Martin suggests this band can offer first responders the user experience they are looking for. The only problem is they are going to wait until incumbent broadcasters vacate the band and that isn't scheduled to happen until August 31, 2011.