FirstNet reports progress on restarting BTOP LTE projects

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The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is still working to create a draft framework for a 700 MHz spectrum lease agreement that would allow seven public-safety projects across the country to resume LTE network deployments.

"These jurisdictions and FirstNet's team have had some very productive discussions on the draft framework for a lease agreement. After we receive the projects' written feedback on the current draft, we will be in a position to move forward in earnest with more individualized negotiations," said Sue Swenson, a member of the FirstNet board and its lead negotiator with the seven Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) public-safety projects.

FirstNet holds the single license for 700 MHz Band 14 public-safety broadband spectrum, which is why a lease agreement is necessary to enable the BTOP projects to move forward using that spectrum.

The seven projects are: the Adams County (Colorado) Communications Center; the City of Charlotte (North Carolina); the Executive Office of the State of Mississippi; the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority; Motorola Solutions (San Francisco Bay area); the New Jersey Department of the Treasury; and the New Mexico Department of Information Technology. 

At its February public meeting in Boulder, Colo., FirstNet's board voted to begin the process of enabling the seven jurisdictions to resume LTE network deployments, which they were forced to halt last spring when funding was partially suspended by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. NTIA, which oversees FirstNet, was concerned that the BTOP public-safety communications projects might not be interoperable with the planned national public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) authorized by Congress in February 2012.

However, even if a spectrum lease agreement is approved for each BTOP, NTIA will still have the final decision on whether lifting individual grant suspensions would represent a prudent use of taxpayer funds.

"While the board has discussed a common set of terms and conditions it wants to see embodied in each agreement, there are likely to be differences in some terms in the final lease agreements given the fact that the projects are at different stages of maturity," Swenson said. "In addition, the board has allowed us the flexibility to capture any special project characteristics in an agreement." 

Such special conditions may address rural or wide area deployments, in-building coverage, development of public-safety applications, billing and provisioning, or other specific project features that FirstNet itself could leverage for the NPSBN, said Swenson.

A representative of a similar project in Harris County, Texas, which is funded with grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been participating in the group's discussions as an observer. The Texas project is operating under Special Temporary Authority granted by the FCC, and FirstNet expects to establish specific terms and conditions in any spectrum lease it considers with Texas.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, signed into law in February 2012, created FirstNet and charged it with developing and operating a nationwide public-safety broadband network, which is to be based on a single, nationwide network architecture.

For more:
- see this FirstNet release

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