700 MHz public-safety LTE network won't break ground for a year

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Construction on the public-safety LTE network planned for 700 MHz D-block spectrum will likely not begin for at least a year because the government must first accomplish considerable planning and setup work.

FirstNet, the authority charged with managing the public-safety network, must be established by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) by Aug. 20. Once FirstNet's 15-member board is set up, it will begin addressing a host of formative tasks, including releasing a request for proposal (RFP) for construction of the nationwide network, which it can only do after it consults with representatives of each state, according to an article in Urgent Communications. The publication quoted Anna Gomez, NTIA's deputy assistant secretary, as saying this RFP process is going to take several months to complete once it is initiated.

Following the RFP's release, each state governor will have 90 days to accept or opt out of the nationwide buildout plan. Any state that does not participate in the nationwide buildout must submit its own construction plan within six months and receive FCC approval for it.

Some early 700 MHz first-responder LTE networks will launch this year in jurisdictions that have already received FCC waivers and federal stimulus grant money to build networks under the auspices of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust, which will transfer its public-safety broadband license to FirstNet once that authority takes shape.

In related news, the FCC on March 21 agreed to explore requiring interoperability for all of the band classes within 700 MHz spectrum. While roaming is at the heart of the debate, some entities, such as T-Mobile USA, have also argued that 700 MHz interoperability would benefit first responders by enabling FirstNet to cut service deals with commercial 700 MHz operators for infrastructure sharing, roaming and usage and lease agreements.

As it currently stands, devices designed for just the public-safety network will need to work on Band 14 of the 700 MHz spectrum.

For more:                                                
- see this Urgent Communications article
- see this AT&T blog post
- see this FCC page

Related articles:
FCC moves forward on 700 MHz interoperability and MSS spectrum rules
Public-safety LTE plans disrupted by 700 MHz D-Block legislation
Seybold's Take: Public safety's 700 MHz LTE network an opportunity for vendors
T-Mobile: All 700 MHz LTE networks should interoperate
AT&T: Building out Qualcomm's 700 MHz will cost at least $1-2B
Will AT&T/Qualcomm lead to 700 MHz interoperability?