FirstNet Board Named for Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network

First Responder Network Authority logo

The FirstNet board, an independent authority within NTIA that will hold the spectrum license for the national public safety broadband network, has been named. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is charged with taking “all actions necessary” to build, deploy and operate this network, in consultation with federal, state, tribal and local public safety entities and other key stakeholders. FirstNet oversees $7 billion in funding toward deployment of this network, as well as $135 million for a new State and Local Implementation Grant Program administered by NTIA to support state, regional, tribal and local jurisdictions’ efforts to plan and work with FirstNet to ensure the network meets their wireless public safety communications needs.

This 12-person team is responsible for deciding how to specify the nationwide interoperable broadband network for public safety and how to spend this $7.2 billion set aside by the Obama Administration for that purpose. The board is made up of government officials, telecom industry professionals and most importantly public safety practitioners. The difficult decisions are now on the table for the FirstNet board, and we will be watching closely to see how they address the challenges. Ultimately, our public safety practitioners must have faith in the decisions and the network that will be implemented. Their needs are not always congruent with commercial wireless networks, so some changes to the commercial networks may be needed if they are to be used for public safety applications.

Aviat Networks believes that the best solution would be for FirstNet to empower states/municipalities to make the best decisions for their particular geographies and needs. What works in Alaska is not the same as the best solution for New York City, for example. Specific guidelines for interoperability requirements and use of available funding must be dictated by FirstNet. But specific needs knowledge, existing cross-state relationships and years of public safety experience all live with the states. We should challenge them to use those assets and to achieve the desired result. Key vendors like Harris and Motorola are well positioned to help the states move quickly and cost effectively to achieve interoperable broadband coverage.

At APCO this week, we saw examples of LTE network trials/demonstrations that clearly show us that LTE public safety network technology is ready to go. Data, video and even voice were moved across the entire U.S., allowing a police chief in Massachusetts to coordinate activities with his counterpart in Nevada. Real-time video of a simulated terrorist episode in Tampa could be viewed by federal entities in Washington, D.C. The ability to move and share information allows first responders to react quickly and with conviction to protect Americans.

So what should vendors to the public safety market do? They should be ready to move quickly with innovative solutions that align with the directions of FirstNet and bring high reliability and performance to the network while stripping out as much CAPEX/OPEX as possible.

Working together with our skilled public safety professionals, we can get this done!

Randy Jenkins
Director Business Development
Aviat Networks

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Feds Update Spectrum Release to Relieve Wireless Congestion

Photo of HTC Mogul smartphone

Smartphones such as the HTC Mogul are driving the demand for more wireless spectrum to be released.

To help relieve wireless network congestion, the Obama Administration made a commitment to release up to 500 MHz of spectrum for reuse in commercial wireless solutions. In April 2011, the NTIA updated the progress toward this commitment in its first interim report. This 500 MHz of spectrumcomprising 280 MHz of underused commercial spectrum and 220 MHz of federally owned radio spectrum now administered by the NTIAwould help ease the growing shortage of spectrum as demands on the wireless network rise. This demand is primarily fueled by the explosive adoption rate of smartphones and other mobile broadband devices and the corresponding infrastructure—both access and mobile backhaul—required to support their use.

The timescales and conditions for the availability of this spectrum is in the hands of the FCC and is expected to take about five years as the first part of its 10 year plan. However, the first four blocks of spectrum have recently been identified for release by the NTIA at 1675-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, 3500-3650 MHz, 4200-4220 MHz and 4380-4400 MHz.

It is estimated that an auction of 500 MHz of spectrum could raise more than $20 billion for the U.S Treasury.

Many wireless technology industry commentators expect the lower bands to be taken up for wireless access. But the higher three bands could be allocated for mobile backhaul use to begin the process of easing congestion in the current 6GHz bands.

The microwave backhaul industry welcomes this first step. We look forward to follow through on further spectrum releasesespecially in the 4 to 8GHz range—which is suitable for high-capacity trunking backhaul.

Ian Marshall
Regulatory Manager, Aviat Networks

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