– FirstNet: Lessons from the School of Hard Knocks

Even Babies have Access to LTE, but First Responders Don'tFriday, June 29th was the second and final day of the National Governors’ Association sponsored meeting of chief information officers (CIOs), statewide interoperability coordinators (SWICs) and other government officials from 49 states and territories. We’re discussing the States’ role in building the new Nationwide Public Safety wireless Broadband Network (NPSBN). The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent agency inside the federal government, will be responsible for the planning, procurement and spending up to $7 billion to create the network. But FirstNet won’t be constituted until August, 2012.  (Note:  I blogged about the first day of this event in FirstNet: Cats and Dogs Living Together).

Friday we heard from Stacey Black of AT&T, Don Brittingham of Verizon and Rishi Bashkar of Motorola. Each of those companies have practical, on-the-ground, experience building these 4th generation, long-term-evolution (LTE) networks. And their advice: basically LTE is a “horse of a different color” from our traditional public safety voice land-mobile-radio (LMR) networks.

Here are some specifics they talked about based upon their experience:

  • The timing is urgent. AT&T, Verizon and Motorola all agreed that the core of FirstNet could be up and running in 12 months. But, because of Federal procurement laws, the requirement to allow States to review the plans, time to issue RFPs and a whole variety of other factors, it may be 5 to 7 years before the network carries traffic. In their words “that is a bad plan: – that timeframe is just too long to meet the need, which is urgent today…(Read the rest of this blog post on my Digital Communities Blog here.)

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