Fri Jul 1 13:35:02 2016
Preparing for the Network
This week FirstNet held both its committee and board of director’s meetings in Chicago. During these meetings, FirstNet put a number of items in place to better prepare for working with the chosen partner when the contract is awarded. It is adding positions and taking actions to ensure that once the award is made, both FirstNet and the partner can hit the ground running. There is still a lot of work to be done but FirstNet is not standing still waiting on the award, which is a good thing. Two of the new positions created are Chief Customer Officer (CCO), responsible for coordination with the states and Public Safety and Network Program Officer (NPO), the office that will work with the commercial partner during all phases of the build-out.
At least one of the board members mentioned comments made in the Senate sub-committee hearing about rural coverage. The law states that coverage needs to be spread out in all areas of the populated United States and as far into rural areas as possible. The RFP spells out clearly that the winning partner is to spend time building out metro, suburban, and rural areas for each of the milestones identified, and further, that rural carriers can partner with the winning partner moving forward. FirstNet also identified many rural unpopulated areas that it refers to as “on-demand” coverage, meaning cells on wheels, drones, vehicles equipped with satellite backhaul, etc. can be sent to an area as needed during an incident.
Today, in a broad-brush sense, the multitude of Land Mobile Radio (LMR) networks for Public Safety have better over-all coverage than any of the existing commercial networks and because LMR radios are much higher power, they cover better inside buildings. In reviewing some of the state-submitted coverage requirements there are some interesting differences worth noting. Some states basically indicated that the coverage they expect is about equal to the two largest commercial networks today, some went beyond that to try to mimic their LMR coverage, and a few went for broke and indicated they did not want a single square mile of their state left uncovered. It will be interesting to see how all of these various requirements will be reconciled. This needs to be done in such a way that a state cannot cry foul because another state seems to gain more in the way of coverage, and there certainly cannot be political implications as to why one state received a better coverage commitment than another state. This will be a balancing act that will take a lot of very smart people some time to work out.
If you are not yet familiar with the NPSTC organization (pronounced ‘NIPSTICK’), it is the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council and it is primarily staffed by volunteers who take on projects for the betterment of Public Safety. FirstNet, via the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), has received a great deal of valuable input from this organization including material defining Public Safety-Grade with which APCO also assisted. NPSTC has also delivered documents on expected network operations requirements, mission-critical PTT, and much more. All of this is at no charge to anyone, for the good of the Public Safety community. Those who volunteer hundreds of hours include some within the Public Safety community, the vendor community, and from the consulting community. The result is a set of documents that defines what Public Safety needs and wants.
The most recent document to be produced is entitled, “Intrastate Channel Naming Recommendations” and it provides recommendations on the assignment of standardized names for regional and statewide interoperability LMR channels. With most if not all radios now equipped with the ability to name channels instead of assigning a number or color code, common naming for channels is an important concept. During major multi-agency incidents and in the heat of the engagement is not the time to fiddle around trying to find the interoperability channel assigned to a given incident or sub-group of an incident. If channels are uniformly named the same, it will be easy for all personnel to find the correct channel quickly.
NPSTC’s meetings are open to all who have an interest in the type of work it is doing and I suggest you sit in on one of the meetings, or at least look at the website (NPSTC.org) to get an idea of the tremendous amount of work it produces each year for the benefit of Public Safety.
I hope each and every one of you has a safe and sane 4th of July. And I hope that those in the drought-stricken west will respect mother nature and leave the fireworks to the experts this year.
The next webinar is for IWCE/Urgent Communications and the title is: Transition from LMR to LTE. It will be held on July 28, 2016 at 2 pm EDT. This should be a fun webinar for me and I will be exploring both the co-existence and the transition of LMR and LTE.
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