FirstNet Expects Initial MCPTT Services to be Available in March 2019
Wednesday, June 28, 2017 | Comments

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) expects initial mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) services to be available on the nationwide public-safety broadband network by March 2019, according to a FirstNet road map for 2018 and 2019.

“This means the technology, software and hardware will be in place,” FirstNet President TJ Kennedy said during the FirstNet board’s June 28 meeting. “It does not mean that everyone is just going to flip a switch and say, ‘This is perfect or it does everything we need it to do.’

“What they will do is they will have the capability, and they will utilize it alongside the other MCPTT capabilities they have and start to build trust in it and use it in the ways they need. When a public-safety agency decides that MCPTT over LTE is good enough for them, it is up to them to make that decision.”

According to the road map outlined by Kennedy, testing and validation of MCPTT for the FirstNet network according to Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards will begin in June 2018.

Contract partner AT&T will test the MCPTT network capabilities, but FirstNet will also do its own independent validation and testing of the technologies at its lab in Boulder, Colorado.

A few months before that initial MCPTT testing, FirstNet will mark a major step in network deployment with the delivery of the band 14 network core in March 2018, Kennedy said.

FirstNet Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Jeff Brachter emphasized the importance of the core delivery for public safety, as it will mean that two geographically redundant cores — the band 14 core and AT&T’s commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) core — will support the network.

“This is a fantastic approach to resiliency and redundancy for public safety in this critical network,” Brachter said. “Being able to turn up and add additional capabilities through the core network is critical moving forward.”

Another key step in the new road map includes the completion of the device and application ecosystem in September. The road map also targets the start of radio access network (RAN) buildout for states that opt into the network in right near the start of 2018. AT&T executives have said in the past that the company hopes to begin network buildout at the end of 2017.

The FirstNet technical team is working closely with AT&T on the initial network policies. Versions of those initial policies were made available in state plan portals alongside the delivery of state plans June 19 so states have an understanding of what is in those policies, Brachter said.

FirstNet is also working with AT&T on finalizing supporting documentation for those network policies. As those documents are finalized, they will be made available to states through the portal, Brachter said.

On the financial side, FirstNet has obligations, funds assigned for specific funding immediately or in the future, of $44 million and expenses of $53.8 million as of May 31, FirstNet Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Kim Farington said.

The fiscal year 2017 budget was developed with several assumptions and because some of those assumptions came out differently, most notably a delay in the contract award because of a protest, FirstNet adjusted its baseline for the year to reflect those changes, Farington said.

Because the contract was delayed, other portions of the project were delayed, meaning that those expenses and obligations will come through later than anticipated, Farington said. The new baseline acknowledges those changes in the timeline.

The $44 million and $58 million for obligations and expenses, respectively, on May 31 reflect 96 percent of the new baseline, Farington said.

Farington told the board that her staff has worked to go through contracts from previous years and close out any contracts that can be closed, which has led to less carryover obligations from previous years.

The fiscal year 2018 budget, which the board and staff acknowledged will be rather different than previous years because of the contract award and beginning of network buildout, will be presented to the board at its meeting in September.

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