AT&T Promises Rural Areas to Be Priority in FirstNet Buildout
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 | Comments
Rural deployment will not be an afterthought to urban deployment during the buildout of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), AT&T, FirstNet and state officials said during a webinar hosted by the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA).

“Rural is something that won’t be waiting until last,” said Carrie Johnson, director of public-safety advocacy and tribal affairs specialist for AT&T’s FirstNet program. “It is a key priority during every stage of the buildout and beyond those first five years as well.”

For each stage of the five-year buildout, there is a requirement for the rural coverage available, which will ensure that AT&T doesn’t wait until the fifth year to begin deploying rural coverage, said David Soloos, the single point of contact (SPOC) for Oregon. “Rural will be coming online as it comes online with urban first responders.”

The FirstNet request for proposals (RFP) required that 20 percent of rural coverage be built in the first year, 60 percent in the second, 80 percent in the third, 95 in the fourth and 100 percent by the fifth year.

Soloos said that Oregon has spent time with the AT&T radio access network (RAN) deployment engineering team on where sites might go to provide rural coverage for Oregon first responders. Especially in eastern Oregon, which is sparsely populated, the number of proposed sites is impressive for a rural area, he said.

As part of the state consultation process, FirstNet and AT&T worked to understand in what areas first responders need connectivity. Because public-safety broadband coverage requirements are different from commercial requirements, AT&T is looking at deploying sites in areas that normally would have to wait a long time for a site or would never get a site, Johnson said.

In addition, AT&T will have 72 dedicated public-safety deployables to provide coverage in remote areas or areas damaged by disasters at the request of subscriber agencies, Johnson said. AT&T plans to have those deployables ready within 14 hours of a request, she said.

FirstNet’s RFP also required that rural partnerships make up at least 15 percent of the coverage area nationwide at the end of the buildout, said Brian Hobson, director of state plans for FirstNet. AT&T has publicly said it plans for rural partnerships to account for more than 20 percent of coverage, Hobson added.

AT&T is working with state, local and tribal entities that have expressed interest in partnering with FirstNet to determine what kinds of assets and resources those organizations might have and how they could help the FirstNet buildout.

The Oregon State Interoperability Executive Council (SIEC) created a broadband committee that has worked with AT&T to identify needs and reach out to local stakeholders about partnerships, such as providing tower space or land, Soloos said. Soloos encouraged agencies interested in partnering with FirstNet or making their resources available for the network to reach out to their state broadband and communications committees to help in making that connection.

AT&T has a team focused on negotiating those local partnerships, Johnson said. The use of any local infrastructure for the national network will be voluntary and would likely be based on a lease agreement, she said.

In response to a question about what percentage of the network would be new sites, upgraded sites or roaming partnerships, Johnson said that because the network is still in the design planning and site selection phase, it is too early to tell.

NATOA supports and serves the communications interests and needs of local governments. For more information or to become a member, visit the website.

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Comments
On 2/16/18, Bidisha Tunga said:
Nice article...very informative for companies like ours.

On 2/15/18, Cecil Dyer said:
From the excerpt below, what is the definition of ready, ready to travel, on site and ready to communicate?
Also where are these deployables? There are 56 states and territories. How can 14-hour ready be achieved?

"AT&T plans to have those deployables ready within 14 hours of a request, she said."

On 2/14/18, GB said:
Questions as opposed to comments. Is the schedule for states public for the rural buildouts? That would be important information to know as agencies make decisions. Is FirstNet consulting with the various jurisdictions to let them know when their service will be ready for prime time?


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