FirstNet Develops Coverage Verification Process, Receives First AT&T Payment
Thursday, June 21, 2018 | Comments

First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) officials are developing a process to verify AT&T’s nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) coverage. FirstNet also received its first sustainability payment from AT&T.

FirstNet staff is developing a requirements traceability matrix (RTM) to monitor AT&T’s radio access network (RAN) deployment and operations. An initial RAN operations review was held May 31 in Oakton, Virginia, said Rich Reed, network management and operations officer at FirstNet, during the FirstNet board meeting June 20.

Task order four requires AT&T to build and operate the RAN in each state and territory and provide certain percentages of band 14 coverage in rural and nonrural areas within certain timeframes of signing the task order. AT&T signed the task order for band 14 buildout in March.

That means by March 2019 AT&T must have 20 percent band 14 coverage in both rural and nonrural areas. In addition, 100 percent of deployables that support Long Term Evolution (LTE) with quality of service, priority and pre-emption (QPP) and mission-critical services are to be available. By March 2020, 60 percent coverage for band 14 in rural and nonrural areas is required, along with 70 percent of LTE-supported deployables and 50 percent of public-safety device connections. The percentages increase in subsequent years until 100 percent for both band 14 coverage and deployables by the fifth year after the task order was signed.

“The contract has clear requirements around coverage and validating that coverage," said a FirstNet spokesperson. "As with any contract, there could be financial ramifications if those terms aren’t met. Validation of the coverage will be an ongoing effort throughout the life of the 25-year contract, on this aspect and others.”

AT&T completed its installations of eNodeB equipment at the FirstNet Innovation and Test Lab in Boulder, Colorado, earlier this year. FirstNet staff validated all 288 RTM items for task order three initial operational capability (IOC)-2, and full service is now available on the FirstNet core. A critical design review (CDR) for task order three IOC-3 is scheduled for Sept. 9 in the Boulder office.

AT&T said June 21 it has nearly 100,000 FirstNet subscribers from more than 1,000 agencies across 52 states and territories. The subscribers include 11 state patrol agencies, at least five tribal public-safety agencies, volunteer firefighters and responders, federal agencies and school districts.

Reed said during the meeting that AT&T has begun delivering deployables, with 24 expected next week. The carrier has responded with deployables to eight incidents around the country during recent months.

"All 72 FirstNet deployables are expected to be delivered by September," said a FirstNet spokesperson. "In the meantime, AT&T has made its network disaster recovery fleet available to public safety."

“We recently experienced significant flooding. Water rescues, road closures and more needed to be quickly coordinated to keep our responders and our residents safe,” said Washington County (Maryland) Sheriff Doug Mullendore, whose agency was one of the first to join FirstNet. “When disaster hit, we relied on FirstNet to keep us connected. We even called in a satellite cell on light truck (SatCOLT), boosting our ability to communicate and coordinate our emergency response beyond the low-bandwidth Wi-Fi some of our personnel were using.”

Wireless Priority Service (WPS) voice service for off-network calls is also now available. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) generally provides WPS at a cost, but there is no additional cost for FirstNet users, Reed said.

FirstNet Financials
AT&T made an initial sustainability payment to FirstNet in April with another payment expected in September, officials said during the meeting. AT&T said in its first quarter results that its capital expenditures included about $140 million in FirstNet capital costs and no FirstNet reimbursements.

In February, AT&T said it will make sustainability payments to FirstNet of $240 million in 2018.

FirstNet Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Kim Farington said FirstNet has used 56 percent of its obligations budget as of May 31 and 58 percent, or $59.1 million, of its expenses budget.

“The numbers are below forecast,” she said. “We are proud of this fact. We have been very good stewards across FirstNet in the use of the funds. We will continue to search for efficiencies. … Every dollar that we do not use for our operations will be going back to public safety.”

FirstNet staff are formulating FirstNet’s fiscal year 2019 budget in the coming months, and the board will vote to approve the budget at its September board meeting.

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On 7/2/18, Jerome M Daniszewski said:
What are the details of the coverage verification? We fully understand how to validate LMR coverage. How does one validate LTE coverage?


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