FirstNet Outlines 5 Key Criteria for Broadband Investment
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 | Comments

TJ Kennedy

Five criteria will help drive future Long Term Evolution (LTE) investment decisions for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) — leverage, effect on current public-safety processes, feasibility, cost and rewards/results — said FirstNet Deputy General Manager TJ Kennedy.

Kennedy and FirstNet General Manager Bill D’Agostino addressed attendees Nov. 13 and 14 at the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Broadband research and development (R&D) workshop in Boulder, Colo., about the goals for future broadband public-safety technologies.

“For interested vendors, FirstNet needs a small footprint, mobile products and lower device costs,” said D’Agostino. “We are going to be as specific as we can about our needs, and we expect vendors to take note and give it to us without cutting corners.”

FirstNet will work with the vendor community on portable devices, in-vehicle routers, specialized devices and accessories, he said. He challenged vendors to “develop a deep understanding of how public-safety works,” leverage LTE to deliver cost efficiencies, create rapidly deployable solutions and quick LTE conversions as well as meet public-safety reliability standards, continue participation in the PSCR demo network, and monitor and provide complete responses to FirstNet requests for information (RFI) and requests for proposals (RFP).

The three-day workshop focused on where PSCR should focus its R&D efforts for public-safety broadband, thinking 10 years out. Then when PSCR is given funding for broadband research, the lab will already have a roadmap for the top priorities for the network. The workshop was capped at 150 attendees, with about 20 percent representing public safety and the rest representing industry.

The breakout groups addressing public-safety needs used the five items listed by Kennedy to help with prioritization. The leverage criteria assume that by addressing one public-safety need, a new technology could actually address several needs. The cost criteria consider the cost of the investment as well as the cost of ownership. If there is an amazing technology, but it’s too expensive for public-safety agencies to deploy and maintain, it isn’t a viable solution, said Dereck Orr, program manager of PSCR. The safety provided by a technology to the community and first responders summarized the rewards/results criteria.  

“We want to come out of here with a lot of knowledge regarding the prioritization of public-safety needs,” Kennedy said.

D’Agostino’s presentation also addressed FirstNet’s upcoming year. The authority is sorting through the 297 RFI received responses, and is hiring and expanding the entity. Within the next 30 days, the agency hopes to finish hiring all the C-level positions, D’Agostino said. The headquarters in northern Virginia should be ready by the first part of next year.

On the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) front, signed agreements are in place with the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LA-RICS) and New Mexico, and the board is feverishly working with several other BTOP recipients to finalize agreements before the Nov. 15 deadline, he said. The allocated BTOP funds are different from the funds given to FirstNet, so the program will help FirstNet expand the network more quickly, D’Agostino said.

With the fiscal year 2014 $194 million budget in place, there is a lot of work to be done in the partnership area, he said. Fifty-five of the 56 states and territories have met with FirstNet in regional meetings. They are now building the staff needed to work with the states to create specific assets and state plans. The goal is to ensure the state plans come from a bottom up perspective, encouraging strong support to make the governor’s decision to opt in or opt out an easy one, he said.

A preliminary list of the state point of contacts should be released in the next week, with a finalized list released once all the point of contacts O.K. the agency releasing their information, Kennedy said.

The first RFP will be around the core network and should be issued by mid-year 2014. From there, FirstNet will continue to prioritize the RFPs, he said.

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