The answers to frequently asked questions address many topics about LA-RICS, including the proposed systems, costs and funding, site selection, and interoperability with other systems. To learn more, click on the questions below to see the answers.
LA-RICS Overview and Systems Descriptions
[learn_more caption=”What is LA-RICS?”]
The Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS) will provide improved radio and broadband communication for the public safety providers of the greater Los Angeles region. LA-RICS is comprised of two distinct, but compatible projects: a Land Mobile Radio (LMR) communications system and a Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband communications system. Covering 88 cities and the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County within a 4,084 square mile area, LA-RICS will provide integrated communications for over 50 law enforcement agencies, 31 fire departments, as well as Emergency Medical Services (EMS), transportation, and education agencies.
The LMR communication system will provide day-to-day voice and narrowband data radio communications service for individual public safety agencies, enable interoperability and interagency communications among member agencies and mutual aid providers, and support communications with regional, state, and federal agencies during disaster events.
The LMR system will consist of installing infrastructure at 55 lattice tower sites and 33 monopole sites located in 64 jurisdictions throughout the County. Existing towers and poles will be utilized where possible. CEQA and NEPA review will be completed, as needed, prior to approval of the proposed LMR project, though some sites may be determined to be exempt from environmental review. System design is underway, with completion targeted for September 2014. If approved, facility installations are estimated to take place from June 2015 through November 2016, and full deployment of the LMR system is targeted for April 2018. Once in place, the system will support 34,000 first responders and 17,000 secondary responders.
The LTE wireless network technology will provide day-to-day broadband data communications service for individual public safety agencies, provide emergency responders high speed access to lifesaving multimedia information, and support the National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) initiative. The LTE system will provide a secure 4G data network to provide high-speed video and data access that will be exclusive to public safety response. Secondary responders and public utilities will also be supported by the LTE system.
Two hundred and thirty-one monopole LTE sites have been identified throughout LA County. All 229 sites are potentially exempt from CEQA; however, NEPA review will be required for all sites. The contract for LTE design and construction was awarded in March 2014. System design is scheduled to be complete within 60 days of contract execution, and, if approved, construction and full system implementation by August 2015.
[learn_more caption=”How will LA-RICS benefit the residents of Los Angeles County?”]
By improving the communications infrastructure for the entire Los Angeles region, LA-RICS will allow public safety personnel to enhance emergency incident coordination, hence keeping residents and businesses safer and more secure.
Effective communication is fundamental to helping police officers prevent and respond to crime, providing firefighters critical information as they protect the public and property during firefighting efforts, and facilitating lifesaving exchanges of information between Emergency Medical Services (EMS) professionals and local hospitals. LA-RICS will support rapid, safe, and effective public safety response during daily operations and support faster, improved coordination of large-scale responses to emergencies such as terrorism, wildfires, earthquakes, or other disasters.
The Los Angeles region is designated as a high-threat area by the Department of Homeland Security. The new systems will mitigate this threat by providing more efficient and effective emergency response communications, making life safer for the region’s 10 million residents.
[learn_more caption=”Who will utilize LA-RICS and how will it benefit responders?”]
a. Public safety agencies (police, fire, and EMS)
The Los Angeles region’s first responders currently use a patchwork of often-incompatible radio technologies and frequencies. This uncoordinated system means that neighboring agencies and systems cannot easily communicate with one another. Agencies are also beginning to outgrow their radio systems, with their need to communicate outstripping the capacity of existing systems to carry the traffic. Despite the information revolution of the last two decades, many agencies still lack the ability to exchange more than text data. LA-RICS will improve overall traffic capacity and coverage, provide a first of its kind dedicated LTE broadband network for all first responders in the region, and provide a single region-wide LMR network. The secure 4G (LTE) data network will provide high-speed video and data access that is exclusive to public safety use. The systems will give the region’s public safety personnel the tools to more effectively achieve their mission of protecting the public, property, and environment.
b. Secondary responders
During many emergency response operations, there is a need for secondary responders to communicate with first responding police and fire units. Transportation services, highway control, and public utilities perform vital activities during emergency operations, particularly as events escalate. LA-RICS will provide the voice and data capabilities for secondary responders to communicate effectively with first responders during emergency incidents.
[learn_more caption=”What is the LA-RICS Authority?”]
Formed under a Joint Powers Agreement in 2009, the LA-RICS Authority (JPA) is a California joint powers authority consisting of representatives from the County, cities, municipalities, public safety agencies, and other public agencies in the Los Angeles region. The JPA is controlled by a Board of Directors consisting of 17 board members. The JPA performs administrative and fiscal oversight of the LA-RICS, identifies and pursues funding sources, sets policy, and will oversee the construction of the communications systems.
[learn_more caption=”What is the ‘Hybrid’ system?”]
The LA-RICS hybrid LMR system utilizes both 700 MHz and UHF T-Band P25 technologies capable of supporting first and secondary responders on a Digital Trunked Voice Radio Subsystem. The hybrid system will allow users on either spectrum to talk with any other user on the same talk-group regardless of the spectrum utilized.
The purpose of the hybrid system is to provide an economic path for LA-RICS users to utilize current and future communications equipment on either spectrum while allowing for a gradual migration away from the T-Band spectrum as required by federal legislation. As the foundation for eventual migration to a 700 MHz system, the capacity of the hybrid system is capable of supporting the operations of all first responders immediately upon system implementation. The hybrid system makes it possible for users to make a planned transition to the 700 MHz spectrum as desired.
[learn_more caption=”What is the JPA’s position on the federal requirement to relinquish T-Band channels in 2021?”]
The JPA understands the critical need for adequate communications for public safety and the reliance of local agencies on over 600 channels in the T-Band. Due to the uncertainty in Congress’ future action regarding the T-Band, LA-RICS has established a course that will allow transition off of T-Band if certain achievements are realized; specifically the successful establishment of a LTE public safety broadband system and its use by first responders for day-to-day routine voice communications. In the interim, JPA staff has met with Congressional members and their staff to underscore the critical nature of public safety communications and the need for sufficient and suitable spectrum.
Costs, The “Funding Plan”, and the “Opt-out”
[learn_more caption=”How much will this project cost and how will the infrastructure be funded?”]
The total value of the contract executed with Motorola Solutions is approximately $280 million. This total includes 15 year-to-year options for system maintenance at a total value of approximately $75 million.
The base system price of $205 million includes three “Additive Alternates” that can be exercised at the sole discretion of the JPA. These Alternates include “In-Tunnel Coverage” for the Metrorail and Metrolink System (valued at approximately $5 million), “Bounded Area Coverage” for locations such as amusement parks, LAX Airport, and the Los Angeles and Long Beach Ports where high levels of activity are anticipated (valued at $20 million), and “In-Building Coverage” for selected buildings (valued at $30 million). It is not anticipated that the option for “In-Building Coverage” will be exercised until completion of the “base system” and downlink and uplink signal coverage are evaluated for those individual buildings. At that time, it is anticipated that the “In-Building Coverage” option will be exercised by and at the expense of individual jurisdictions.
It is anticipated that with the existing allocation of grant funds totaling $85 million and future federal grant allocations to the Los Angeles area, sufficient funds will be available to fully fund the LMR infrastructure without commitment of local funds.
The total value of the contract executed with Motorola Solutions is approximately $175 million. This total includes 5 year-to-year options for system maintenance at a total value of approximately $32 million.
The total cost of the infrastructure for the LTE system will be funded with the JPA’s federal Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant of $154.6 million and local match requirement. The BTOP grant requires local matching funds valued at a minimum of 10% in kind and 10% cash match. Matching funds must be contributed by JPA members.
[learn_more caption=”How will the operating costs for each system be funded?”]
Projected costs for the LMR system operation have been calculated as part of the Funding Plan. Once operational, the LMR system will be funded by any applicable grants secured for the system, and through member contributions. The cost for user equipment has not been included in the base contract price. Members can, however, take advantage of JPA pricing obtained during the procurement process.
As part of the LTE system procurement, Motorola provided projected costs for annual maintenance. Similar to the LMR system, input into the specific elements used in the cost allocation formula were solicited as part of the Funding Plan development. Once operational, the LTE system will be funded through any applicable grants secured for the system, and member contributions.
[learn_more caption=”The Joint Powers Agreement calls for developing a Funding Plan before commencement of construction. Will Cities be asked for input into the Funding Plan and, if so, when will that occur?”]
Input into the specific elements to be used in the cost allocation formula was solicited from JPA members over a series of stakeholder meetings during development of the Funding Plan. On May 28, 2014, the JPA Board voted to approve the Funding Plan and set a 180 day “Opt-Out” period pursuant to the Joint Powers Agreement.
[learn_more caption=”Can my City ‘Opt-Out’ of the JPA for only one of the communications systems?”]
At the March 6, 2014 JPA Board meeting, the Board of Directors opted to continue with full LA-RICS membership and full participation in the LMR and LTE systems, which will achieve the Authority’s intended goal of establishing a comprehensive public safety grade regional interoperable communications system dedicated to the public safety community within the greater Los Angeles County region.
[learn_more caption=”Does a City have to participate in both the LMR and LTE systems?”]
As noted above, the JPA Board of Directors opted to maintain the status quo for full membership and participation in both the LMR and LTE systems. However, the JPA’s Bylaws allow for another level of participation other than as a member, namely as subscribers and affiliates.
[learn_more caption=”If my City approves use of a site, is it obligated to participate as a
member or as a subscriber/affiliate in the LMR and/or LTE systems?”]
No. There is no obligation to participate in the LA-RICS if a City approves the use of a
City site. Cities are encouraged to host an LMR and/or LTE site as there are derivative benefits in supporting other public safety responders operating on the LA-RICS that may be called upon to help city agencies. Additionally, a federal effort is being made to establish the National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). The NPSBN is envisioned to be a replacement for all public safety communications in the future. The LTE system is a foundation system for the NPSBN.
Site Selection and Construction Related Issues
[learn_more caption=”How were the locations of the LA-RICS tower/monopole sites selected?”]
For the LMR system, a list of 109 sites was included in the RFP for the proposer’s initial design. Each of these sites hosts existing public safety transmitter equipment. Additionally, proposers were allowed to select from a list of 255 sites as “fill in” sites with the restriction that only monopoles not exceeding 70 feet in height would be considered. Only the proposer’s selected sites account for the guaranteed minimum coverage and capacity.
For the LTE system, proposers were required to plan their system using 231 pre-selected sites. All 231 sites, and only these sites, could be used in the plan. These sites were selected based on an analysis of coverage requirements, and the likelihood that they would not have any adverse environmental impacts that might disqualify them from using an LA-RICS-specific, statutory exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code § 21080.25). Two sites were subsequently dropped from the initial design at the request of the host city.
[learn_more caption=”If my City declines the placement of a tower/monopole in the City or on a specific site, how will that impact coverage in my area?”]
Loss of any site will degrade the coverage for the LA-RICS. The “reach” of the LMR system transmitter equipment is substantially farther than the LTE system. Loss of a LMR “fill in” site will marginalize coverage in the close geographical area. Loss of a principle LMR site will require identification of an alternate site and incur a change to the contract value.
Loss of any LTE site will create a gap in coverage. The ability to identify substitute LTE sites that can fill the coverage gap while meeting the criteria for the CEQA exemption discussed above is very limited.
[learn_more caption=”LA-RICS has sent out a Site Access Agreement. What should we do with it?”]
The draft Site Access Agreement should be reviewed by your City Manager, City Attorney, and Planning Department as required by your City. LA-RICS and its Counsel will meet with your City staff to resolve any issues. A copy of the draft agreement can be sent in Microsoft Word for review and comment by your City.
[learn_more caption=”Will LA-RICS comply with my City’s Community Development and Building Permit processes? What if the site is a County owned facility?”]
JPA staff will work with each City to determine what types and levels of approval and permitting are needed, if any. If barriers to completion of the site prove detrimental to the projects, the JPA would be forced to abandon the site and coverage will be impacted as mentioned above. Each City should note that the LA-RICS Authority is a California joint powers authority whose members have specified, pursuant to Section 4.04 of its Joint Powers Agreement and Section 6509 of the California Government Code, that all common powers exercised by the LA-RICS Authority’s Board of Directors shall be exercised in a manner consistent with, and subject to all the restrictions and limitations upon the exercise of such powers, as applicable to the County of Los Angeles (i.e., the LA-RICS Authority has adopted the County’s operating mode).
The JPA expects that for all of the sites owned by the County, the JPA will follow the County’s building code requirements. With respect to sites owned by individual cities, the JPA will follow the local building code requirements, if required by the local jurisdiction.
The JPA will work with the cities to address any local concerns.
[learn_more caption=”How will the coverage provided by LA-RICS compare to the current communications system serving my City?”]
The LMR system has been specified to meet 97% coverage with 95% reliability throughout the urban areas. Motorola Solutions has committed to meeting these coverage requirements if the LMR project is approved. Locations in the Foothills, Angeles National Forest, and Santa Monica Mountains are much more difficult to cover and have a lower coverage requirement. Completion of the project will be an iterative process and require further analysis and work to ensure coverage. LA-RICS is committed to the premise that there will be no degradation in coverage provided by existing systems.
There is currently no integrated public safety broadband system in existence. Nevertheless, coverage has been predicted to cover 95% of the urban area outside of buildings. The system will also include a “Roam” feature on a commercial system to provide commercially available in-building and additional geographical coverage. It is the goal of the JPA to improve system coverage as future funding becomes available.
[learn_more caption=”When will LA-RICS be fully operational?”]
The proposed LMR system is anticipated to be complete by phases in five years. Phase I, the Detailed Design, will be completed in September 2014. Construction, installation, and implementation of the system would follow, after any required environmental review, if any, and project approval.
The proposed LTE system must be completed and operational before August 15, 2015 to take advantage of the BTOP program’s federal grant funds.
Interoperability with Other Systems
[learn_more caption=”How will LA-RICS interoperate with Interagency Communications Interoperability System (ICIS)?”]
The LMR system design will include an Inter Sub-System Interface (ISSI) interface to link LA-RICS and ICIS together. The governance of that interface and operational restrictions has not yet been determined.
[learn_more caption=”If our police department is on ICIS and we contract with Los Angeles County Fire (who will be on LA-RICS), how will our public safety agencies coordinate their responses?”]
As mentioned above, the ISSI interface will enable LA-RICS subscribers to seamlessly interoperate with ICIS users.
[learn_more caption=”What is the future of interoperability between the LMR and LTE systems?”]
The Public Safety Communications Research Laboratory (PSCR), a federal agency under the Department of Commerce, is currently evaluating the future of public safety communications. PSCR is also working with commercial vendors in establishing the standards for future communications equipment. Single devices that operate in both LMR and LTE mode are in development. No time table has been established.