One of the most frequent questions our office gets is “When is the National Public Safety Broadband Network going to be available for first responders to use?” The short answer is, we are not quite sure. The long answer – as you would expect – takes a little more explaining.
The FirstNet network is already up and running in five pilot sites nationwide. These include Adams County (CO), New Jersey, Los Angeles (CA), New Mexico, and Harris County (TX). No additional pilot sites are planned.
Deployment of the full network is still in the procurement stage, with FirstNet releasing its request for proposals (RFP) on January 13 to select an industry partner to deploy the wireless data network nationwide. Bids are due back on May 13 with an award planned for later this year.
A component of the FirstNet RFP requires the successful bidder to stand up a nationwide wireless data network within six months of contract award. That initial network, though, will likely not operate on Band 14 (the spectrum dedicated to public safety) and will lack many of the public safety features that FirstNet users are expecting. It will be similar in quality to networks available from other national wireless data carriers and used by public safety and the general public today. That initial network will be replaced over time by 4G LTE data services on Band 14 with additional public safety features (like improved quality of service, priority and preemption for public safety users, and expanded coverage).
The timing for when the Band 14 network will be available in Massachusetts is still uncertain. FirstNet is planning a phased deployment of the network over five years. The plan for that deployment, including coverage areas, costs, supported devices, and other information will be provided to our office by FirstNet in a Massachusetts State Plan for review by the Governor’s Office. This plan is not expected until 2017.
So, in short, it is up and running in a few test beds nationwide, and public safety organizations may be able to start subscribing to initial FirstNet data services as early as 2017. The full network with its enhanced public safety features, though, is still several years off. Assuming a smooth federal procurement, the best we could expect is that the network will start to be deployed in Massachusetts in 2017 and will be completed within five years. We’ll communicate updated timeframes and other information as it is known to our office.
Let us know your questions.
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