Wed Dec 10 11:53:49 2015
End of 2015
This is the last Public Safety Advocate for 2015, and as required by the writers’ union, I must write about what transpired in 2015. Failure to do so would result in my being driven from the union in disgrace!
For FirstNet, 2015 turned out to be a very good year. Much was accomplished, the C-level staff went from acting to full time, many states, territories, and tribal nations were visited by FirstNet staff members to work on what states need to do to prepare and what FirstNet needs to do to help convince states to opt into the FirstNet network instead of trying to go it alone. The first draft RFP was released by FirstNet as promised, a Q and A period was provided, as was a deadline for filing comments. The comments were reviewed, digested, dissected, and absorbed by FirstNet and according to FirstNet, many mid-course corrections were applied.
We have been promised that when the final RFP is released in early January of 2016 it will be a much different document from the original draft, which frankly read more like a procurement document than a request for partnership. We will have to see once it is delivered and keep in mind that FirstNet has also stated that additional course corrections might be possible even after the final document is released.
Some in both the vendor community and within the Public Safety community are, and continue to be, disappointed that three years after FirstNet was created there is still no partner and no real work is being done to build the network. FirstNet is well aware of the need to move forward but in fairness, it is trending on new ground with many of the delays being caused by the federal government bureaucracy behind FirstNet. If this had been a commercial enterprise, the network would be up and running at least in the top 50 markets by now, but it will come, and once the partner is chosen things should begin to move forward rapidly. The reason I believe it will move more quickly is that the chosen partner will have committed to a multibillion dollar investment to build out the network and its return on that investment will only begin once the network is up and running and producing FirstNet and secondary user revenue.
There were also downsides to 2015. First, those who have never used push-to-talk services in their lives continue to extoll the virtues of Mission-Critical PTT over LTE, and continue to try to convince elected officials they do not need to continue to spend money on their existing LMR systems. This is a very dangerous game to play since today LTE, in and of itself, cannot be considered as mission-critical as today’s LMR systems. LTE by nature of its architecture and its reliance on being connected to the Evolved Packet Core all of the time cannot be compared to LMR networks that have multiple layers of graceful degradation. Further, the 3GPP mission-critical PTT standard has not been released and has not been vetted by the Public Safety community. Slow down folks!
Also on the negative side of the ledger were the vendors that, even after FirstNet made it clear that states opting out cannot simply collect the secondary income for network usage in that state, continued to try to con states into believing they could magically change the law and make it happen. It reached a point in December where one state actually issued an RFP for its own FirstNet system to be purchased and built prior even to FirstNet providing that state with the FirstNet design and plan for the state’s review.
Lessons we should have learned in 2015 when it comes to FirstNet and broadband wireless data include the fact that a city, county, state, or federal entity cannot simply show up at a location with a backhoe, some concrete, and a tower and expect to be met with open arms. As in the commercial world, advance planning, advance notification, and working with the community is a must when it comes to putting in new towers, even if they are for use by Public Safety. We should have also learned that voice communications is the most important part of Public Safety communications now and well into the future. Voice needs to be used primarily on LMR Public Safety channels and perhaps experimented with over LTE. The broadband network is for broadband services: data and video. Perhaps someday it will be robust enough to replace LMR, but not for a very long time.
Finally, hats off and a big thanks to the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) and the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC). These two organizations made up of all volunteers have done a tremendous amount of work that is benefiting FirstNet and the entire Public Safety community. And thanks to all of our subscribers. Our list has grown by more than 30 percent this year, and the input and feedback we receive from many of you is welcome and keeps us on our toes!
A HAPPY AND SAFE NEW YEAR TO ALL!
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