TR Daily, January 4, 2018
Guam today announced that it will opt into the First Responder Network Authority system being built by AT&T, Inc.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands opted in by a Dec. 28 deadline (TR Daily, Jan. 2, 2018), but the territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands have until March 12 to make a decision because they received their state plans later than the others.
“Communication is critical when a typhoon or other disaster strikes our island,” said Guam Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo (R.). “FirstNet is another step toward improving our connectivity amongst first responders, which enhances their safety as well as their ability to safeguard and respond to emergencies in our island community.”
“With our participation in this nationwide program we’ll take a step to addressing our communications needs for first responders. Our geography here on Guam expands well beyond the popular hiking grounds in the hills and valleys of the south, it continues into miles of ocean surrounding our island,” Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio (R.) said.
“Governor Calvo’s decision today delivers a modernized public safety network that will improve emergency communications in Guam,” said FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth. “With FirstNet, Guam’s first responders will now have access to the most advanced technologies over a reliable, high speed connection to help the island’s first responders save lives and protect communities.”
Meanwhile, wireless industry consultant and public safety advocate Andy Seybold noted in a weekly commentary today that public safety agencies are under no obligation to sign up for FirstNet service. He noted that agencies could negotiate with AT&T for better pricing or coverage before agreeing to subscribe.
“It is in the public safety community’s best interests to have as many departments on the FirstNet system as possible,” Mr. Seybold said. “The vision for FirstNet was always to provide a nationwide, fully interoperable communications network to augment existing land mobile radio systems and to provide for the addition of data and video services to and from first responders in the field. FirstNet wants as many agencies to join as possible to prove Congress was right in allocating the spectrum and funding resources to enable the creation of FirstNet.”
Mr. Seybold added that “AT&T has two motivations. First, it is obligated under the terms of the contract to sign up a specific number of public safety users (this number was provided by AT&T as part of the RFP and conforms with FirstNet expectations). If the numbers are not met penalties must be paid to FirstNet and in the event of a failure to make significant progress in adding users, FirstNet has the right to take over the network marketing aspects — something neither AT&T nor FirstNet want to see happen.
“The second reason AT&T needs this network to be successful is to be able to monetize the large investment it is making in the network build-out and operation,” Mr. Seybold said. “The real payback for AT&T comes when it can put Band 14 in service in major metro areas to be used as secondary or overflow spectrum for its commercial customers during periods when the public safety community is not making heavy use of the spectrum.” —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org