The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council released a statement today expressing disappointment in statements by AT&T, Inc., the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) network partner, that there is no consensus definition for public safety grade.
“NPSTC is disappointed that FirstNet’s commercial partner, AT&T, has on numerous occasions stated that it is not aware of a single agreed upon definition for public safety grade,” the federation said. “It is clearly apparent that numerous NPSTC-generated public safety broadband requirements submitted to the [FirstNet] PSAC [Public Safety Advisory Committee] have significantly influenced FirstNet’s RFP for which AT&T’s contract was awarded. Public safety stakeholders have spent thousands of hours developing broadband requirements and expect a public safety grade system. Public safety and the protection of our nation deserve no less. NPSTC continues to work on additional public safety broadband requirements as issues are identified. The public safety community expects FirstNet to listen to its needs and requirements, and ensure its partner strives to build the best public safety grade network possible. NPSTC is counting on FirstNet to hold AT&T accountable.”
NPSTC added, “It is important to understand FirstNet is unlikely to replace Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems in the foreseeable future. Public safety will not replace their LMR systems until they are assured the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) meets their requirements. It serves our nation to make sure that happens.”
The statement noted that NPSTC in 2014 released a 115-page report on the definition of public safety grade broadband systems (TR Daily, May 23, 2014), and last year the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International launched a process to create an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard for the definition of public safety grade. The standard is expected to be published next spring.
In response to NPSTC’s statement, AT&T said, “We fully recognize and acknowledge the great work public safety has done to build requirements around broadband for this community. It not only informed the RFP that FirstNet put forth, but it also informed the customized State Plans the states are now reviewing. So we want to be very clear here – the FirstNet network will meet the requirements set forth by FirstNet. We recognize that FirstNet, NPSTC and other public safety stakeholders and organizations like APCO will continue to work on and evolve requirements and standards. We’re hesitant to say that there is a complete definition set in stone. We look forward to working with FirstNet, NPSTC and public safety to continue to deliver services over a network designed for the unique needs of public safety.”
Meanwhile, Andy Seybold, a wireless industry consultant and safety advocate, said in his weekly commentary that he is concerned about Verizon Communications, Inc.’s announcement that it will build a public safety core network and offer priority access and preemption to public safety customers (TR Daily, Aug. 15), which would compete with AT&T’s FirstNet service.
“I have to say that as an early proponent of a nationwide … public safety broadband network that will provide full interoperability between all agencies regardless of where they are in the United States or its territories, I was really surprised and dismayed at Verizon’s attempt to hang on to a few million subscribers out of the 146 million it reported in April of this year, and its apparent lack of concern for creating more, not less, interoperability issues and challenges,” Mr. Seybold said. “This is especially when Verizon could not be bothered to bid on the FirstNet RFP, stating publicly at the time that it had little interest in low-band spectrum either with the 600-MHz auction or the FirstNet spectrum since it believed spectrum higher in frequency would be more useful for small cell or 5G technology, on which it seemed to be betting the farm.”- Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org