University leads multi-institution team to improve public safety communications

University leads multi-institution team to improve public safety communications

During a disaster, communications systems must deliver fast and reliable service to affected individuals. Yet despite their critical importance, public safety communication systems often rely on dated technologies that lag behind modern high-speed wireless access.

A team of researchers from four institutions, led by the University of Nevada, Reno, has received a $690,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a framework designed to improve wireless networking in public safety communication systems. In particular, the project aims to establish protocols and policies that incentivize increased sharing of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum.

"Currently the RF spectrum, a very scarce resource, is heavily licensed to carriers that tend to protect the bands they earned with a lot of licensing fees. The carriers share their spectrum band only if their own subscribers are not using it," said Murat Yuksel, associate professor of computer science and engineering and project principal investigator. "When there is a clear motivation for the larger good, such as public safety, we believe that it will be easier to incentivize the carriers as well as individual subscribers to share more."

Yuksel and Thomas Quint, professor of mathematics, will lead the research effort at the University. Researchers from Florida International University (FIU), Virginia Tech and the University of Central Florida (UCF) are also participating.

The investigators envision sharing at an extreme level where it becomes the norm, hence the term "pervasive spectrum sharing." Particular techniques being explored include performance-based subsidization to incentivize wireless providers for more spectrum sharing and device-to-device negotiation protocols that employ game theory to seamlessly share wireless resources among users.

The project involves researchers from disciplines spanning mathematics, public safety, game theory and computer science and is funded  by the NSF's Enhancing Access to Radio Spectrum (EARS) program. The research team received grant funding this fall, and its agenda includes partnerships with industry providers such as Cisco and Motorola as well as public safety officials such as the Washoe County Sherriff's Office.

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