FirstNet: Costs, deployment details will become clearer in 2015

The bad news is that a comprehensive request for proposals (RFP) for the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) being crafted by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is not slated to go out until early 2015. But the good news is at that point states and territories should have a much better grasp regarding their costs to participate in the network.

"As we go through that process and get responses back and make an award, we'll have a lot more information and detail on potential cost and buildout of the network that will then get incorporated into the state plans," said Amanda Hilliard, FirstNet's director of outreach. Hilliard spoke during a webinar hosted by IWCE's Urgent Communications, which reported her remarks.

"We're about to go through a significant RFP process with some unknowns and of course it's a time-consuming process. It's a little bit hard at this time to give exact time frames," she noted.

FirstNet must work through an unwieldy 46-step process for each state and territory, but progress is being made. In many states, FirstNet is already on step seven, according to TJ Kennedy, FirstNet's acting general manager, who was cited by ComputerWorld.

Nonetheless, planning for the LTE-based NPSBN is already impacting public-safety decision making. Scott Neal, director of the Pennsylvania State Police's Bureau of Communications and Information Services, who was quoted by Urgent Communications, said that agencies are starting to encounter stumbling blocks when they seek approvals for necessary land-mobile radio (LMR) system upgrades. The problem is twofold, he indicated, because many in the public are confused over what two-year-old FirstNet really is, and there is continuing debate regarding the speed with which LTE can replace LMR systems.

Neal said he feels like cringing "when anyone makes the statement that we'll have mission-critical voice over LTE (VoLTE) sooner than anyone expects."

For more:
- see this Urgent Communications article
- see this ComputerWorld article

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