Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, June 14, 2018

FirstNet and Interoperability.  During speeches at the recent PSCR meeting in San Diego, two people made points that started me thinking about what lies ahead for FirstNet. The first was the Chair of The FirstNet Authority, Sue Swenson, who talked about FirstNet ending Chapter One on a high note and starting Chapter Two. The second was TJ Kennedy, who announced formation of the Public Safety Technical Alliance (PSTA), a non-profit that has been formed to work with the public safety community, vendors, and others to ensure components for FirstNet (Built by AT&T) meet the open standard mandate put into place by FirstNet the Authority.

Sue talked about the first chapter for FirstNet being a long one for many of us, spanning more than ten years. However, it concluded with the network in place, all 56 states and territories opting in, a large number of public safety agencies joining FirstNet (Built by AT&T), more approved devices coming to market, and momentum that will carry us into Chapter Two. As promised, the network is nationwide, it provides end-to-end encryption, has its own core, and delivers full pre-emption for the first responder community. Chapter Two then will be about what runs on the network and how to maintain full interoperability. The rationale for FirstNet was to provide a coast-to-coast and border-to-border network where vehicles and people could move into other jurisdictions to assist in an incident and not only have a common network but to be assured that what rides on the network in terms of applications, data access, and voice are all fully interoperable.

To this end, TJ Kennedy and a host of others formed the PSTA to work with FirstNet, public safety, vendors, and others to make sure what flows over the network is “operable” for all. However, before we start on Chapter Two, we must first understand that like any broadband network, it will never be truly finished. It will continue to grow, new sites will be added as needed, and it will encompass 5G small cells, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other related purposes for the network. AT&T recently committed $2 billion to building out FirstNet in rural America, which will also enable rural businesses and citizens to gain access to broadband they have never had before. Even after the 25-year contract is over, the network will continue to grow and expand using whatever new technology replaces 4G and 5G.
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