Global Government Officials Gather to Discuss Public-Safety Broadband
Friday, August 30, 2019 | Comments

A group of officials from governments around the world came together in Boulder, Colorado, USA, this week to discuss issues surrounding public-safety broadband communications.

Officials from the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which oversees the U.S. nationwide public-safety broadband network (NSPBN), hosted and helped organize the event. The group heard details from FirstNet staff members about how they gather information and engage with public safety, how the request for proposals (RFP) was formed, and updates on how the network is progressing. Attendees also received a tour of FirstNet’s Innovation and Test Laboratory and the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) facility, both of which are in Boulder. Ed Parkinson, FirstNet executive director, said 18 countries and the European Union were represented. In addition to the U.S., delegates from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Japan, Australia and Canada were in attendance. Noticeably absent was a South Korean delegation because of testing for a broadband network for railroads conducted in that country this week, he said.

He said many governments, such as Germany, are interested in the details of FirstNet’s governance, including single points of contact and the opt-in process that was written into the legislation that created FirstNet.

While the specifics of spectrum, deployment model, funding, coverage and other details are unique to each country, the event allowed the officials to exchange information and learn about specific approaches they can take back to implement in their own countries.

“Understanding how broadband is being used in various countries gave FirstNet folks insights — often we hadn’t thought about leveraging the technology in that way,” he said.

The U.K. Emergency Services Network (ESN) procurement for air-to-ground (ATG) services to enhance coverage and capacity is an area that intrigued FirstNet officials.

“Just seeing how they went through that procurement process was invaluable for us,” Parkinson said. “We haven’t spent any time on ATG. Now we have a direct, open dialog where we can share information on that. That is a great tangible example of why conferences like this are helpful. We don’t have to start from scratch here in the U.S.”

Another benefit of the event is that it grows the marketplace for the vendor community. “It’s my hope that we can grow that ecosystem in a way that will ultimately benefit the public-safety users here in the U.S.,” Parkinson said. “The more companies you can get and the more vendors that enter this marketplace helps drive competition, and users get greater choice. That’s only a good thing.”

The group is planning another event next year, although dates and location have not yet been determined. A similar event was held last year in Belgium, and the inaugural conference of the International Governmental Operators’ Forum (IGOF), a new initiative to advance coordination among national critical communications operators, was launched in Coventry, United Kingdom, in April.

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