Who is FirstNet?
The First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, was created in 2012 as an independent authority under the Department of Commerce and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). It is responsible for the deployment and operation of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). The NPSBN will provide fully interoperable data communications for first responders nationwide using a single frequency. The FirstNet Board is comprised of 15 members with experience in the areas of public safety, information technology, communications and finance. Permanent members include the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. The remaining members are selected by the Secretary of Commerce and serve 3-year staggered terms. To learn more, go to http://firstnet.gov.
What is public safety broadband?
Public Safety Broadband is similar to the data service most people purchase through commercial carriers, but it is dedicated to public safety professionals. Many of us have participated in events where high congestion caused us to be unable to post pictures, send texts or access applications that we use on a regular basis. Sometimes we can’t even get calls to go through.
Our public safety officials experience the same lack of access as the general public and during those times are unable to access critical data such as criminal justice information, computer-aided dispatch, etc. The Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) will be a cellular data network that uses the same technology as the commercial carriers but operates in a frequency spectrum dedicated to public safety; this assures that first responders have access to critical data and applications especially during incident response when commercial carriers are saturated and least reliable.
In addition to creating FirstNet to oversee the deployment of the NPSBN, Congress allocated an additional 10 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz D-block thus providing a full 20MHz dedicated to public safety’s mobile data needs. The technology selected for the NPSBN is Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and will be deployed in Band Class 14.
What is LTE?
Long-Term Evolution (LTE), a 3GPP standard technology, is the technology selected for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). This is the same broadband cellular technology used by the major carriers. There are numerous advantages for selecting standards-based versus proprietary technology. Some of those advantages include:
- Intrinsic interoperability
- More diversity of devices
- Lower cost of devices
- Multi-band device capability for carrier roaming
- Forward & backward compatibility of devices
Many public safety organizations are familiar with the high cost of building and maintaining Land-Mobile Radio systems. They are also familiar with the high costs and technical challenges associated with achieving interoperability across different systems. By selecting a single standard for broadband deployment, public safety will be able to avoid the technological and financial obstacles of achieving and maintaining interoperable data communications networks.
What are the 3GPP standards?
According to www.3gpp.org, "The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) unites [Six] telecommunications standard development organizations (ARIB, ATIS, CCSA, ETSI, TTA, TTC), known as "Organizational Partners" and provides their members with a stable environment to produce the Reports and Specifications that define 3GPP technologies." 3GPP is the common standard that allows cellular networks to interface with each other seamlessly and therefore is an important part of the future FirstNet network because FirstNet will be able to interoperate with cellular networks when needed.
How is it funded?
FirstNet was allocated $7B for network deployment. Similar to commercial carriers, FirstNet will fund the public safety broadband infrastructure – not local jurisdictions. State, local and tribal jurisdictions who choose to participate will be responsible for the devices and the monthly subscription fees. FirstNet plans to offer network access pricing comparable to commercial carrier networks.
Per the legislation, the Governor of Texas will be presented with the FirstNet build out plan for Texas and will have the opportunity to "opt in" or "opt out" of the FirstNet build out plan. If Texas opts in, FirstNet will finance the build out of the infrastructure. If Texas opts out, the State will decide how to build out and fund the infrastructure, or possibly choose to utilize a public/private partnership.
No state general revenue funds will be requested or utilized until the Governor has made the decision to opt in or opt out.