First steps for FirstNet

Published: April 24, 2013

Justice/Public Safety & Homeland Security

The state of Delaware, on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic Consortium for Interoperable Nationwide Advanced Communications (MACINAC), released a request for information (RFI) for a 700 MHz public safety broadband network to support FirstNet’s efforts in deploying a nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN).
The initiative involves a multistate approach with Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland, and may include Washington, D.C. The RFI process is expected to take place in two phases. The first phase focuses on obtaining information on certain “low-risk” aspects of the network that are less likely to be impacted by any future decisions made by FirstNet. The second phase will begin after the initial RFI process is complete and FirstNet provides further direction on technical specifications. This phase would include aspects related to long-term evolution (LTE) equipment, maintenance, operations and end-user devices. The MACINAC intends to work in close collaboration with FirstNet before a subsequent solicitation is developed.
The NPSBN is expected to enhance current public safety communications operations already in use within MACINAC states. Each state utilizes its own land mobile radio (LMR) system that will continue to remain in place once the network is constructed. To date, MACINAC has made consistent efforts to analyze and obtain information on current infrastructure that could be useful in any future build out of the NPSBN.
Analyst’s Take
This RFI marks one of FirstNet’s first major initiatives, and information gathered through the process is likely to benefit both statewide and FirstNet decision-making in regards to implementing an NPSBN. If the RFI process yields sufficient results, it is likely to act as a roadmap for other states to follow and may drive the formation of regional partnerships.
The decision to take a regional approach could make for a more attractive grant application since regional projects often receive more attention and funding than localized projects. This will be particularly important given the difficult economic times and the potential impact sequestration may have on state and local grant funding levels. At the same time, a regional approach may also create difficulties for the project as larger projects are more prone to stagnation and exploding budgets, as seen with LA-RICS and New York’s statewide wireless network.
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