As FirstNet moves forward, it must be compatible with next-generation 911 (NG911), said a National Emergency Number Association (NENA) official. The next-gen 911 system will be IP-based to improve the flow of emergency information (including texts, videos and pictures) from the public to safety responders.
According to NENA's director of government affairs, Trey Forgety, FirstNet and NG911 need to interoperate without incident, coordinating various interfaces like FirstNet's voice codecs. NENA officials have asked FirstNet engineers to plan the service's voice codecs around NG911's G.729 and G.722 standards.
The coordination will allow the two systems to exchange information without the added time and financial costs of translating between different codecs.
"We've been very aggressive in making sure that the engineers at FirstNet are aware of what's going on in NENA's standards processes, so that they're not engineering things that break anything," Forgety said in an IWCE Urgent Communications article, adding that he feels NENA has been successful in standardizing between public safety groups.
In addition to sharing digital standards, Forgety said he's optimistic that FirstNet can operate on some of NG911's physical infrastructure as well. He said funding limitations--$7 billion from Congress, client fees and revenue from commercially leasing excess network capacity--mean FirstNet likely couldn't afford its own unique broadband network. Instead, it may operate on Emergency Services Internet (ESInet), the IP internetwork that will be shared by public safety answering points (PSAPs) nationally as NG911 goes live.
"Our expectation--and, I believe, the expressed expectation of FirstNet--is that much of that same physical infrastructure will also be used by FirstNet," added Forgety, who serves as NENA's representative on the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee.
It's also possible that FirstNet will use existing state accommodations, such as fiber or copper, and offer user discounts in exchange. These and other details have been brought up as part of a flood of questions surrounding FirstNet's draft request for proposals (RFP). Thus far, FirstNet officials have responded promptly, and Forgety expects they will comply with NG911 standard requests as well.
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