FirstNet leases space for technical HQ in Colorado, prepares to hire 100 employees

The First Responders Network Authority (FirstNet), charged with building a nationwide LTE network for use by public safety, has leased space in Boulder, Colo., for its technical headquarters and will begin hiring staffers for the facility starting this month.

FirstNet leased 28,000 square feet of space at 3122 Sterling Circle in the Valmont Industrial Park and will hire 100 employees to design and develop the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN), according to the Boulder County Business Report.

A recent Craigslist advertisement for 3122 Sterling Circle shows the lease rate for the space was recently lowered from a triple-net (NNN) rate of $11.75 per square foot to $9.50 per square foot. The site was described as a "Signature Office/Manufacturing/ Warehouse/Lab Space" with high-quality construction and "beautiful finish levels." The space includes an open office, lab space and warehouse, said the ad.

The location is near Boulder's small municipal airport, the Boulder County Jail and hiking and biking trails.

In October 2013, FirstNet's board voted to establish northern Virginia as its corporate headquarters and the Boulder, Colo., area as its technical, engineering and network design headquarters.  

Boulder is home to the Commerce Department's laboratories, including the Public Safety Communications Research program (PSCR), which has already conducted significant research into first-responder communications that will factor into FirstNet's plans. PSCR is a joint effort of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which also oversees FirstNet.

Jeff Bratcher, PSCR operations and technical manager, is FirstNet's Boulder point man as he is also the authority's acting deputy CTO. A permanent CTO will be named later to lead the Boulder operations, which are expected to take about a year to come together. The first employees for the facility should be hired by month's end.

Bratcher told the Boulder County Business Report that he is currently overseeing the hiring of federal and contract employees as well as the buildout of the new facility while also working on FirstNet strategy.

"You name it, I'm doing it," he said. "It's kind of a startup environment within the federal government, so lots of activity."

ADCOM 911, the nonprofit that handles dispatch services for 14 public-safety agencies in Adams County, Colo., is expected to work closely with the new FirstNet facility. FirstNet agreed in December 2013 to lease 700 MHz D-Block spectrum to ADCOM911, saying Adams County's proximity to the PSCR center in Boulder will make it a pilot demonstration project for testing interoperability with FirstNet's nationwide network. 

Bill Malone, ADCOM911 director, predicted its $6 million LTE network will be completed by December. "We will be one of the first local networks that are up under FirstNet," he told the Business Report. "We expect to actually be the first."

ADCOM911 was one of seven Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) public-safety entities that received a total of $380 million in federal grant funding to build out public-safety LTE networks over 700 MHz spectrum prior to the creation of FirstNet. BTOPs were forced to stop their network rollouts unless they could agree to spectrum-lease pacts with FirstNet, which now holds the 700 MHz public-safety spectrum.

BTOP grantees that failed to reach FirstNet lease agreements include Charlotte, N.C.; the executive office of Mississippi; and the Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications Systems Authority (BayRICS)/Motorola Solutions.

Earlier this month, the FirstNet board voted to continue negotiating a spectrum lease agreement with Harris County, Texas, which was not one of the seven BTOPs but is home to the nation's only operating 700 MHz public-safety LTE network.

For more:
- see this Boulder County Business Report article
- see this CraigsList ad
- see this LoopNet listing

Related articles:
FirstNet lays out roadmap, extends spectrum talks with Texas county
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FirstNet will let two more BTOP grantees use its 700 MHz spectrum for LTE networks
FirstNet wants inspector general to finish ethics investigation
Three BTOP grantees will not get to deploy LTE over FirstNet spectrum
FirstNet OKs first spectrum-lease pact, short-term staffing strategy
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