FirstNet Chair Urges Against Complacency as Buildout Continues
Friday, June 08, 2018 | Comments

With the buildout of the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) underway, First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Chair Sue Swenson cautioned public safety against becoming complacent during a keynote speech at the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting in San Diego this week.

“FirstNet has created an exciting marketplace, but that marketplace needs focus and prioritization,” she said. “Public safety needs to drive that.”

Swenson said that public safety should have the same determination and mindset it had before the creation of FirstNet and the allocation of spectrum for the NPSBN and continue to fight and drive the process forward to best meet public safety’s needs.

While public safety should continue to work together on vertical applications for the network, it should also on addressing large issues, such as mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT) and location-based services, that cut across the entire public-safety industry, Swenson said following her speech.

“There has to be an outcome,” she said. “It’s not just about activity.”

In her speech, Swenson compared the NPSBN to the Autobahn highway in Germany, and said that public safety now has an upgrade over its old jalopy. It’s up to the public-safety community to determine what kinds of vehicles it wants to use on the new highway, she said.

With the buildout underway, FirstNet’s role is to continue working with and managing AT&T to ensure schedules are met and promises and commitments are fulfilled, Swenson said.

She noted that there is a perception among some in the public-safety community that AT&T is just riding FirstNet’s back to deploy its spectrum but said that the relationship runs both ways.

AT&T has implemented an aggressive schedule to build out chunks of spectrum that it has held for years, and the synergies between building out that spectrum and the band 14 spectrum have helped the carrier meet that schedule. The launch of band 14 service could come sooner than many expected because of this schedule, Swenson said.

“I’m happy to ride someone else’s back,” she added.

User adoption of AT&T’s FirstNet service has moved at a good pace so far, Swenson said. Around 600 agencies have signed up for the service.

Many of those organizations have been purchasing subscriptions for many or all their users and not just a few subscriptions as a way to test the services, Swenson said.

Swenson’s term as board chair will end this August and her term on the board itself will end in August 2019.

“They say time flies when you’re having fun,” Swenson said in her keynote. “I can’t say that it’s all been fun, but it has been incredibly rewarding to be involved in something that not many thought could be achieved and makes such a difference to our country.”

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