Minnesota Offers Checklist for Evaluating Commercial Broadband Providers
Thursday, July 16, 2020 | Comments
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Emergency Communication Networks (ECN) developed a wireless carrier evaluation guide to help public-safety agencies in the state and around the country evaluate broadband wireless service provider options.

The guide includes a thorough checklist of all the categories, including coverage, service plans, devices and applications, network considerations, and customer service and support, that agencies should consider when determining the best commercial carrier for their needs.

“Multiple public-safety stakeholders reached out to DPS-ECN expressing difficulty in selecting the best carrier,” said Dana Wahlberg, director of emergency communication networks for the state of Minnesota. “Our wireless broadband team decided the checklist would assist them to ask the right questions prior to making a decision. DPS-ECN and Televate, the Wireless Broadband Program’s professional and technical consultant, used key network requirements from earlier statewide efforts and combined them with stakeholder feedback to create this framework for use by all public-safety agencies, regardless of their technical expertise.”

The checklist provides a consistent evaluation platform that agencies can use to equally evaluate and rank multiple carrier options. The evaluation allows agencies to apply an apples-to-apples comparison for services and tools using the same set of criteria, Wahlberg said.

All of the major carriers, including AT&T, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), Verizon, as well as T-Mobile and Sprint, which have recently merged, are on the Minnesota state contract for public-safety broadband services. The contracts are managed by the Minnesota Department of Administration.

Minnesota has a carrier-agnostic approach to public-safety broadband services because the state’s public-safety agencies have unique needs and requirements for both voice and data services. DPS-ECN’s role is to collectively support the state’s public-safety agencies with resources and tools, so they can perform due diligence in selecting the best solution for themselves.

“DPS-ECN is not in the business of dictating or selling solutions,” Wahlberg said. “While the eventual goal may be to have every public-safety agency on a single wireless broadband network, FirstNet may not be the right carrier for every public-safety agency today. It makes sense for public-safety agencies to migrate at the right time for the right reasons. Coverage and quality are of the utmost importance for mission-critical communications.”

Wahlberg said that while the checklist was developed by public-safety agencies in Minnesota, the state is happy to share it with any agency across the country.

“Using this tool allows agencies to evaluate and select the most appropriate wireless broadband provider based on their own needs and requirements,” she said. “We welcome feedback, so we may continue to improve and augment this checklist as a valued resource for our stakeholders.”

The checklist is available here. ECN also has a wireless broadband adoption flow diagram and guide available here.

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Comments
On 7/22/20, Joseph said:
I question why you would ever want A public safety first responder to be on one network. That makes no sense since we all know NO carrier is perfect and they will fail and then what You have no back up. Going to one carrier should not ever be the answer. Carrier compatibility and carriers working together makes much more sense.

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