FirstNet International Forum Addresses Public-Safety LTE Globally
Thursday, April 20, 2017 | Comments

Representatives from seven nations attended the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) International Public Safety Forum for Wireless Broadband March 16. The forum discussed ways to share lessons learned about public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) around the world.

Representatives from Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, Sweden, Finland and Norway attended the forum. At least 17 countries are considering some form of a nationwide LTE broadband network dedicated to public safety. All the nations have the goal of bringing reliable high-speed wireless communications to public safety, whenever and wherever they need it.

Each nation has its own unique characteristics within its systems of government, politics, business, geography, population and first responder needs, and each is at a different stage in the process.

The United Kingdom was the first to use a nationwide network for public safety by deploying a private TETRA system in 2000 with loaned spectrum to cover 97 percent of the country. The U.K. plans to begin transitioning to LTE broadband next year, with completion in 2020.

Similar to the U.S., Canada has reserved the same 20 megahertz of 700 MHz broadband spectrum. Canadian officials are discussing the best roles for each level of government and the private sector. U.S. and Canadian representatives believe using the same swath of spectrum will enhance cross-border coordination and cooperation and improve public-safety responses near the common border.

Sweden, Norway and Finland each have a state-owned, nationwide, narrowband TETRA system but they plan to add high-speed LTE broadband for mobile use, with increased security and international interoperability.

South Korea last year began test piloting its broadband network, which is expected to improve security and interoperability and be fully operational in 2021.

Australia is in the discussion stages of how best to deploy a nationwide, public-safety broadband network, particularly with the roles of public and private entities.

Each country must create a business model to meet its needs. There are many decisions to be made: How to create an affordable system? How to make it sustainable? How to cover the whole population, including remote areas? How to leverage existing infrastructure, owned both by government and commercial telecommunications?

In a blog, FirstNet President TJ Kennedy said FirstNet will be successful because it consulted with states, tribes and public-safety entities to ensure their needs were included in the request for proposals (RFP) process, and FirstNet conducted an “unprecedented” data collection effort from all states and territories to ensure their unique needs were included in the procurement.

FirstNet awarded AT&T the contract to deliver the nationwide public-safety broadband network last month.

“A critical important factor in our success will be our public-private partnership model to meet all of public safety’s mission objectives,” Kennedy said.

The FirstNet service will not be mandatory; therefore, it must be differentiated to encourage public safety to adopt the service and continue to use it. Rural buildout milestones will push coverage farther, the blog said.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said he expects the buildout to begin in the fourth quarter, creating some 10,000 new jobs in the U.S. during the next two years.

The full blog is here.

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