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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Microwave Backhaul for Public Safety LTE

US Navy 031026-M-4815H-029 Fire fighters from ...

(Photo credit: Chance W. Haworth via Wikipedia)

Public safety agencies will soon experience a dramatic improvement in communications capabilities enabled by advances in technology. New broadband multimedia applications will give first responders and commanders alike far better situational awareness, thereby improving both the effectiveness and safety of all personnel charged with protecting the public.

The specific technology, now mandated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for all new emergency communications networks, is Long Term Evolution, or LTE—a fourth-generation (4G) broadband solution. The FCC has also allocated licensed spectrum to ensure the best possible performance in these new networks. These FCC rulings support the goal of achieving an interoperable nationwide network for public safety agencies.

The FCC chose LTE based on its proven ability to support voice, video and data communications at remarkably high data rates that were previously only possible with wired links. Although there will be some differences in a nationwide public safety network involving capacity and coexistence with Land-Mobile Radio communications, lessons learned from LTE’s deployment in large-scale commercial mobile operator networks will help ensure agencies are able to achieve the FCC’s goal cost-effectively.

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