Proof-of-concept FirstNet project gets underway in New Jersey

Setting out to meet an ambitious timeline, first responders in three regions of New Jersey are expected later this year to use a new dedicated public-safety LTE network composed entirely of deployable infrastructure operating on 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum licensed to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), IWCE's Urgent Communications reports.

PMC Associates, a New Jersey-based company specializing in mission-critical radio solutions for first responders, is teaming up with Oceus Networks and Fujitsu Network Communications to build the proof-of-concept network, known as JerseyNet.

PMC Associates is providing integration and support services, while Oceus Networks is supplying the LTE core and the radio access network (RAN). Fujitsu is designing, equipping and managing the wireless and wireline backhaul portions of the network.

Bryan Casciano, vice president of sales for PMC Associates, told IWCE's Urgent Communications that JerseyNet is designed to include more than 30 cells on wheels (COWs) and six systems on wheels (SOWs) that can be deployed in various locations via SUVs, vans or trailers.

Under the terms of its Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding, the JerseyNet deployment must be completed by September, a requirement that is expected to be met under the current schedule. "We want to have all of this installed by June," Casciano told the publication.

Nationwide, FirstNet's team has been conducting regional and state meetings, which it calls consultations, with local authorities. The formal consultation process started in Maryland in July 2014, and by the end of last year FirstNet had conducted formal consultations in Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Puerto Rico, Utah, Iowa and Florida as well.

FirstNet is also making sure its messages get heard in rural areas. FirstNet's acting executive director, TJ Kennedy, made an appearance at the NTCA--The Rural Broadband Association's Wireless Symposium in Las Vegas earlier this month, noting that under the legislation that created FirstNet, the term "rural" ensures substantial rural coverage milestones in each phase of building out the network.

He also said the team at FirstNet is working to complete a draft request for proposal (RFP) as soon as possible, and once it is released, he said, "We would encourage full participation in that process."

No doubt, the organization is eager to get on with its mission after being the subject of controversy over conflicts of interest and other allegations. Late last year, the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General released a report that found that FirstNet board members failed to adhere to financial-disclosure rules and lacked operational procedures for monitoring potential conflicts of interest. At least two lawmakers called for hearings this year to further look into FirstNet's activities.

At the time, FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson said the organization had undergone significant change in the preceding year, including instituting an experienced management team and dedicated legal counsel and hiring more than 80 employees. Several of the recommendations in the inspector general's report had already been implemented, she said.

For more:
- see this Urgent Communications article
- see this blog post and this post

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