FirstNet Extends Comment Deadline, Details Relocation Efforts (3/26/15)
Friday, March 27, 2015 | Comments

By Kristen Beckman
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board extended the comment period by one week for the recently released second public notice related to state and territory opt-out of the radio access network (RAN). The decision was announced during FirstNet’s board meeting Wednesday.

FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson said the public notice is necessary to determine how to maintain a balance of deploying a nationwide network while providing states with the option to take responsibility for their RANs. The second notice also seeks feedback on technical requirements for equipment to be used on the network, including open standards for connectivity and device competition.

TJ Kennedy, FirstNet acting general manager, said FirstNet has had a number of discussions with state single points of contacts (SPOCs) and other stakeholders since the notice was released. “Everyone has asked for more time so they can gather responses,” Kennedy said, noting some states and territories are finding it is taking longer than expected to gather feedback from their many stakeholders.

The previous comment deadline was April 13. Kennedy said FirstNet is working on an updated notice that will propose a weeklong extension that will be published in the Federal Register.

“We want to hear from everybody,” Swenson said of the extension. “I want to be sensitive to that. I know we need to move it along, but I think we need to be sensitive to getting feedback from interested parties.”

The FirstNet board also was briefed on spectrum relocation efforts in the 700 MHz spectrum designated for the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) by Patrick Sullivan, a FirstNet legal adviser.

“The D block has had long and checkered history with the FCC and the private sector,” said Sullivan.

He noted the spectrum was repurposed for wireless services as part of the digital TV transition mandated by Congress in 1997. Between 2001 and 2007, narrowband public-safety operations were licensed and began operating in the spectrum that is now band 14. About 40 systems were deployed, he said. Allocations in the band were frozen after 2007 in anticipation of the creation of a NPSBN, said Sullivan, but there still remain systems that were licensed in the band that are in operation today.

“Our initial evaluations indicate that 13 of those systems in about 10 states are actually systems that will require relocation,” said Sullivan. “We are assessing some of the operational aspects of the remaining systems, however, we believe this is fairly accurate.” The 13 systems are Bingham County, Idaho; Pierce County, Washington; Massachusetts State Police; Illinois State Police; St. Clair County, Illinois; Virginia State Police; Honolulu, Hawaii; Glendale, Arizona; Providence, Rhode Island; Kalamazoo County, Michigan; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Garfield County, Colorado; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Sullivan said FirstNet is reaching out to all incumbents currently operating in the band via email and by phone to gather technical information and assess their needs. A relocation team has been formed and is working on cost estimates and funding mechanisms for relocating the initial 13 systems.

When asked whether the relocation would be considered large, Sullivan said the 800 MHz narrowbanding and relocation effort is about 10 to 30 times larger in comparison.

“While it’s smaller in number and scope, a number of these systems are statewide,” said Sullivan. “Whether small or big, it will probably take a lot of time. We want to give everyone time to get off of the band and give us time to deploy so there is a seamless integration.”

The FirstNet board also heard an update on the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) from Harlin McEwen, chairman of the committee. McEwen detailed the PSAC’s efforts via working groups on early builder projects and tribal outreach efforts. McEwen also discussed the PSAC’s efforts with priority and preemption, public-safety grade infrastructure, and user equipment, each of which have task teams working on various issues.

The FirstNet board did not vote to release a draft request for proposals (RFP) during the meeting as anticipated.

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