The US Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) took a major step forward last week (26 August 2016) when the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Board approved a $6.5 billion budget package, including $85 million for FirstNet operations.
The budget will support key developments on the proposed 4G public safety first responder network slated for the 2017 fiscal year 2017. Developments include the evolution of FirstNet’s public-private partnership, which will deliver the project, and the implementation of the NPSBN itself.
“This mission-driven budget reflects our goals for the organisation, for the Network, and for public safety,” said FirstNet chair Sue Swenson. “It will drive the achievement of major milestones along our Strategic Roadmap in what will be a pivotal year for FirstNet, including critical post-award priorities such as State plans and continued outreach to public safety.”
As part of its NPSBN contract, FirstNet will contribute 20 Megahertz of low-band spectrum (2 x 10MHz of 700 MHz spectrum in the upper D block) and up to $6.5 billion to enable a partnership to ensure the building and operation of the NPSBN during a 25-year term. FirstNet is in the evaluation phase of the procurement and remains on track for awarding the contract in November 2016.
The NPSBN comprises delivery of a nationwide core network, transport backhaul and radio access network. The nationwide nature of the contract favours mobile network operators with extensive infrastructure already in place and the US’s two largest carriers Verizon and AT&T are both understood to be interested.
In approving the budget package, the Board said it is ensuring that up to $6.5 billion will be obligated towards the contract and associated task orders, once awarded. FirstNet intends to pay that amount over the course of the contract as the chosen partner achieves committed NPSBN deployment and operational milestones.
“The Board’s actions today ensure we are prepared to support our partner(s) on day one and deliver for public safety,” said FirstNet chief executive officer Mike Poth. “This budget also provides us with the flexibility we will need to operationalise, deliver 56 individual State plans, and enable public safety adoption of the Network.
“We look forward to having a contract in place and working with our partner to firm up the targeted milestones we outlined today, including the delivery of draft and final State plans.”
The US Congress allocated $7 billion from spectrum auction proceeds to establish FirstNet and directed FirstNet to take all actions necessary to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the nationwide public safety broadband network for local, state, regional, tribal, and federal first responders and other public safety personnel.
The aim of FirstNet is to provide public safety first responders with access to fast broadband applications such as video streaming. It is, at least for now, being seen as purely a broadband data service. Mission critical voice applications will remain on the narrowband P25 two-way radio networks used by fire, police and ambulance.
FirstNet is an independent authority that is governed by a 15-member Board that consists of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General of the United States, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and 12 members appointed by the Secretary of Commerce composed of representatives from public safety, government, and the wireless industry. For more see: www.firstnet.gov
FirstNet faces considerable challenges in delivering the NPSBN. For details on these challenges see:
The devil is in the details for the US FirstNet first responder LTE network