Title VI of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (PL112-96) includes provisions to fund and govern a national public safety broadband network, reallocate the 700 MHz "D" Block spectrum to public safety, and authorize the FCC to conduct incentive auctions to raise $7 billion for building and managing the new network. It establishes the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, within the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Imagine public safety first responders:
- Viewing live on-scene video from cameras inside schools and other public venues at emergency communications and mobile command centers.
- Sending emergency scene videos and vital health statistics to trauma centers.
- Real-time alerting to command staff of downed personnel via personal safety equipment transmitting real-time video and vital signs via clothing mounted heat and bio sensors.
- Situational awareness of dangerous surroundings via data transmitted by first responders on-scene and from dispatch centers.
All these and more become possible with the deployment of FirstNet in Delaware as part of the FirstNet Nationwide Network (FNN), an interoperable broadband network dedicated to public safety.
The real value of FirstNet is the broad range of new public safety applications that it will enable. The expansive data throughput of LTE broadband, which is theoretically more than 15 times faster than 3G cellular data today, enables capabilities that, until now, were simply not possible, from multimedia command and control of video and graphics, to geo-location and asset tracking, and automated license plate recognition. FirstNet plans to include a Service Delivery Platform (SDP) “app store” appcomm.org from which local, regional, and national software applications can be obtained as well as access to key public safety data sources such as the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) databases.
To ensure interoperability and availability of low cost user devices, the Act directs the use of Long Term Evolution or LTE – the fourth generation (4G) cellular technology currently being deployed by commercial service providers. An LTE network consists of these major elements:
- User Equipment (UE), such as a vehicle mounted modem, smart phone or tablet
- Radio Access Network (RAN) consisting of towers and cell site base station equipment to make the wireless connection to the UE.
- Evolved Packet Core (EPC), performing core LTE controller activities, such as identifying and connecting subscribers
- Backhaul network, which interconnects the RAN equipment to the EPC, typically via suitable fiber optic and microwave links
In 2013, FirstNet activities in Delaware emphasized stakeholder education and outreach, engaging stakeholders across the state and raising awareness. In 2014, efforts shift to collecting requirements as input to the network design. Soon after, at the national level FirstNet plans to build the FNN core, complete their staffing, and investigate deployable alternatives for serving remote areas. Network deployment will follow.
Missions Support vs. MIssion Critical
When discussing applications, it’s important to make a distinction between mission critical and mission support use by public safety users. The mission critical voice communications provided by two-way Land Mobile Radio (LMR) technology are supported today by wide coverage, highly reliable networks. The initial focus of the FirstNet network in its phased roll-out will be mission support high speed data services.
Points to Remember
- LTE is not a replacement for LMR technology today.
- LMR will continue to provide mission critical voice for the foreseeable future.
- LTE introduces new capabilities and makes current data applications even better. It is a supplementary technology that offers new high bandwidth data and video services.
- FirstNet is a high speed data communications network. Its unique and compelling value will be fully realized as useful, interoperable applications are made available to users.