Alvarion’s BreezeACCESS system plays Batman for Fresno police
The network was built using a combination of BreezeACCESS VL and BreezeACCESS 900 system
About the city of Fresno

Fresno is California's sixth largest city with a population of 475,000 and is lined with many trees throughout its 105 square miles.

The challenge

  • Create a "mobile office" for police officers enabling them to access database information, file paperwork and reports and complete other office-related functions from their vehicles.
  • Create secure metro-wide coverage at a fraction of the high cost of mesh Wi-Fi while still benefiting from standards-based Wi-Fi at the edge.
  • Implement a communications infrastructure that supports vital broadband applications for security, including video feeds. 

The solution

A broadband wireless network built using infrastructure and vehicular based equipment from Alvarion and edge devices and software from integration partner IBM®.

The result
  • A citywide wireless data network which enables public safety officers on patrol to securely access national law enforcement databases, deliver reports from the field and remotely view video feeds from cameras placed in several locations around the city. Also, to process tickets and send and

    Alvarion's broadband wireless network provides data speeds 100 times faster than the original radio network

    receive mails using handheld personal digital assistants (PDA).
  • A network which was built quickly, within a tight municipal budget, and created better coverage for less than 1/10th the cost of proposed mesh systems.
  • A broadband wireless network which provides data speeds 100 times faster than the original radio network.

When in the office, the 820 police officers of the City of Fresno have access to the latest sophisticated technology including broadband connections from wired networks such as 100 BaseT LANs, Gigabit Ethernet WANs, T1s and even fibre optics. When they are out in their patrol cars, however, the only connection available to them is a traditional two-way radio system. This 800MHz band based two-way radio network offers 10 dedicated voice channels and five data channels, each capable of only 9.6kbps data rates.

The current number of data channels is not nearly enough to support the growing needs of a police department with hundreds of officers. And the slightly upgraded speeds promised by cellular packet data networks (CDPD) became unavailable to them as of last year when those unprofitable networks were shut down by the carriers. The result is no ability to deliver broadband data or video applications to officers in the field, or even to meet the new encryption requirements for communication recently mandated by the Californian Department of Justice.

City officials recognized that giving officer's broadband data access would greatly increase their effectiveness in fighting crime while increasing field time since reports could be completed and filed remotely. So they decided to build a citywide broadband wireless network to provide real-time, high-speed connectivity to the city's entire fleet of 250 police vehicles. This would then enable public safety officers to send and receive text messages, still images, and full-motion video using mobile data terminals and handheld PDAs.

As city officials began their investigation into building this network, they conducted extensive trials of various technologies including Wi-Fi and mesh networking solutions. Partly as a result of heavy foliage in many parts of the city, the Fresno police department quickly concluded that the investment and rollout demands required to provide adequate geographic coverage using either of these systems would be cost prohibitive.

IBM integrated Wi-Fi capability into each vehicle so police officers can use handheld PDAs in and around their cars

In contrast, due to advanced non-line-of-sight technology and large cell radiuses, the Police Department found Alvarion's broadband wireless systems to be cost effective for providing citywide broadband mobile coverage. And with the addition of IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager (WECM) software, the network could be made to also support roaming between Alvarion's high-speed network and the existing legacy network.

The network

By the summer of 2005, phase one of the network was built using a combination of Alvarion BreezeACCESS VL systems operating at 5GHz and BreezeACCESS 900 systems operating at 900MHz. Base stations were positioned discreetly on existing government structures such as radio towers, water towers, and city buildings eliminating the cost of building and erecting new towers. As a result, the network was deployed, tested, and operational in less than 6 months and now covers about 50% of the city. In each police car, a BreezeACCESS 900 mobile subscriber unit (SU-M) is connected to an in-car computer and transmits and receives information to/from the nearest base station, even when moving at vehicular speeds. Operating at a data throughput in excess of 1Mbps, IBM also integrated Wi-Fi capability into each vehicle, so police officers can use handheld PDAs in and around their cars.

Specific applications the Fresno police are using today include accessing police databases to download mug shots, criminal records, or other critical information on suspects; streaming live video from security or other cameras in order to monitor unfolding crime situations; dispensing e-tickets for minor infractions; and filing police reports from the field. This new network (operating at 5GHz and 900MHz) was built specifically to complement the existing two-way radio network (operating at 800MHz) with session persistency and seamless switching between the two networks. The result is network redundancy that guards against disconnects due to outages.

The future

Work on phase two of the network has already started and will double coverage to more than 100 square miles, which will then include many of the suburban areas of the city. At that time, broadband wireless services will also be extended to police motorcycles, detective vehicles, and the force's helicopters.
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