What is the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)?
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission recommended the establishment of a nationwide, interoperable public safety communications network to resolve communications challenges faced during emergencies. Signed into law on February 22, 2012, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).
FirstNet is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. FirstNet is governed by a 15-member Board consisting of the Attorney General of the United States, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and 12 members appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. The FirstNet Board is composed of representatives from public safety; local, state and federal government; and the wireless industry. These dedicated individuals bring their expertise, experience and commitment to serving public safety and meeting the FirstNet mission. The FirstNet organization is the first of its kind. Never before has Congress established an independent government authority with a mandate to provide specialized communication services for public safety. Using nationwide 700 MHz spectrum, FirstNet will put an end to decades-long interoperability and communications challenges and help keep our communities and emergency responders safer.
The law gives FirstNet the mission to build, operate and maintain the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. FirstNet will provide a single interoperable platform for emergency and daily public safety communications. This broadband network will fulfill a fundamental need of the public safety community as well as the last remaining recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. FirstNet will bring 21st century tools to millions of organizations and individuals that respond to emergencies at the local, state, tribal and federal levels.
Congress made history by allocating valuable spectrum and up to $7 billion in funding for the construction of the FirstNet network. To create a nationwide network, all 56 U.S. states and territories must have a radio access network that is connected to the FirstNet core network. To contain costs, FirstNet is tasked with leveraging existing telecommunications infrastructure and assets. This includes exploring public/private partnerships that can help support and accelerate the creation of this new advanced wireless network.
FirstNet is a new and growing organization. The search for talent to fill management, outreach and technical positions is actively underway. We invite you to support our mission and visit our website regularly to follow our progress.
How Will the FirstNet Network Benefit Public Safety?
The FirstNet network will be built with the goal of enabling faster, more informed, and better coordinated responses to incidents and coverage of events. Just as smartphones have changed our personal lives, it is our goal for FirstNet devices and applications to ultimately change the way Federal agencies and other public safety entities operate.
The FirstNet network will improve situational awareness and decision-making, as well as citizen and responder safety and increase the efficiency and effectiveness
of emergency response through cutting edge broadband communications. Imagine a day when a single communications network can be used to dispatch EMS personnel, a medical helicopter, police officers, and fire personnel from different jurisdictions all at the same time, utilizing voice, video, and data at broadband speeds. Public safety personnel using the FirstNet network will be able to share applications, access databases, and provide better informed responses to incidents through integrated communications.
The FirstNet network will make it possible to use new tools that support faster parallel processing. The FirstNet network will enable the exchange of real-time data and audio/video feeds between EMS personnel and hospital staff. This kind of connection, while units are on the scene and during transport, will improve all levels of pre-hospital care
FirstNet's goal is to provide public safety-grade reliability and nationwide coverage so all public safety personnel can count on the network when they are on the job. FirstNet is also aiming to provide coverage solutions that let public safety "take the network along" to the destination in certain geographies. FirstNet will create a nationwide standard of service while affording localize
d customization and control.
When the FirstNet network launches, it will provide mission-critical, high-speed data services to supplement the voice capabilities of today's Land Mobile Radio (LMR) networks. Initially, the FirstNet network will be used for sending data, video, images and text. The FirstNet network will also carry location information and eventually support streaming video. FirstNet plans to offer cellular voice communications such as Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) or other alternatives.
What Will Be Possible with the FirstNet Network?
The FirstNet network will be built with the goal of enabling faster, more informed, and better coordinated responses to incidents and coverage of events. Just as smartphones have changed our personal lives, it is our goal for FirstNet devices and applications to ultimately change the way Federal agencies and other public safety entities operate. The FirstNet network will enable faster, more informed and better coordinated response to incidents.
What Will Users Pay for FirstNet’s Services?
FirstNet intends to offer services at a compelling and competitive cost to attract millions of public safety users and make FirstNet self-sustaining. The use of FirstNet services and applications will be voluntary. The costs for FirstNet services and devices have not yet been set.
How Will States and Agencies Participate in the Buildout of FirstNet?
The law that established FirstNet requires it to consult with regional, state, tribal and local jurisdictions to ensure that the FirstNet network is designed to meet the needs of public safety across the country. State consultations will be a collaborative process, involving key stakeholders and leadership from each state and territory, and will be iterative to allow for enhancements and improvements from the state and territory. Additional information on state consultations is available at SPOC state contact list.
How Can My Local Agency Participate in the Development of the FirstNet Network?
FirstNet is responsible for working through the designated State Single Points of Contact (SPOC) to consult with states, local communities, tribal governments, and first responders to gather requirements for developing its network deployment plans. First responders can provide input to FirstNet via the outreach efforts coordinated by the SPOC in each state. To identify the SPOC for a state and let them know you are interested, go to the SPOC state contact list. EMS personnel may also want to contact members of the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) and participate in outreach discussions at professional association meetings and conferences. More information regarding the PSAC and its membership is available at Public Saftey Advisory Committee. To stay up-to-date on FirstNet activities, EMS personnel can track progress on the FirstNet Website.
Who is Responsible for Building the Network Components?
FirstNet will be responsible for building out the network core. If, after completing the collaborative state consultation process, a state decides to opt-in and accept FirstNet's state plan jointly developed by the state and FirstNet, FirstNet will pay to build out the state's radio access network (RAN) that will connect to the core. FirstNet will also be financially responsible for the network's operations and maintenance.
Will All My Public Safety Employees Have to Subscribe to the Network?
Use of the FirstNet network is voluntary, and any public safety agency is not required to participate. However, a network built for and dedicated to public safety agencies should provide a dependable and affordable user experience making FirstNet network an attractive choice for first responders.
Who Will Be Responsible for Operating and Managing the Network in My City or County?
FirstNet will be responsible for managing core operations and RAN operations for opt-in states. FirstNet also will enable robust identity management and authentication practices at the local level.
When Will the Network Be Available in My City or County?
Each state/territory will participate in a series of meetings with FirstNet as part of the required consultation process. Once the consultation is completed, the state plan is finalized, and a governor opts into the network, the RAN will be built to the plan specifications. FirstNet cannot determine at this time when its services will be available to cities and counties.
How Can My
City or County Participate in the Development of the FirstNet Network?
FirstNet is responsible for working through the designated state Single Points of Contact (SPOC) to consult with states, local communities, tribal governments, and first responders to gather requirements for developing its network deployment plans. FirstNet often participates in professional association meetings and conferences. To request FirstNet's participation at a meeting or conference, please contact us at info<ii'firstnet.gov. To stay up-to-date on FirstNet activities and track progress at www.firstnet.gov and ©FirstNetGov on Twitter.
What Agencies Besides Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS and 911 Can Use the Network? What Other City/County Officials Will Be Able to Use the Network During an Emergency?
FirstNet will be issuing a public comment notice regarding eligible public safety entities under the law in 2014 to solicit input from stakeholders on this topic. State and territory specific discussions regarding eligible users will occur during the consultation process.
Who is My State Single Point of Contact for Further Information?
To identify the SPOC for a state, visit the SPOC state contact list.
What is the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC)?
Consistent with requisites of the statute, FirstNet was required to establish a Public Safety Advisory Committee (PS AC). FirstNet established the PSAC consisting of 40 members who represent public safety organizations from all disciplines of public safety as well as state, territorial, tribal, and local governments. There are also at-large members and a Federal member. The mission of the PSAC is to assist FirstNet in carrying out its duties and responsibilities.
How Can My Local Agency Participate in the Development of the FirstNet Network?
FirstNet is responsible for working through the designated State Single Points of Contact (SPOC) to consult with states, local communities, tribal governments, and first responders to gather requirements for developing its network deployment plans.
Stay up-to-date on FirstNet activities on the firstnet website
The FirstNet Network
FirstNet was created to be a force-multiplier for first responders – to give public safety 21st century communication tools to help save lives, solve crimes and keep our communities and emergency responders safe. To do that, FirstNet will build a new Band Class 14 network designed to be reliable, functional, safe and secure, and provide optimal levels of operational capability at all times. For the first time, public safety communications will be based on commercial standards. This will bring the benefits of lower costs, consumer-driven economies of scale and rapid evolution of advanced communication capabilities.
The law that established FirstNet specified that the network shall be based on the minimum technical requirements on the commercial standards for Long Term Evolution (LTE) service. LTE is the evolution of a proven technology, which is now in its fourth generation. With each generation comes improvement in speed and functionality. Standards work to enhance and evolve 4G LTE is continuing on a global basis. FirstNet is involved in the standards process and working closely with public safety organizations to support the development of standards and functionality that meet the needs of the public safety users that FirstNet will serve. Much of the current focus is on an international set of standards that will allow FirstNet to offer mission-critical voice (MCV) when these capabilities become available. The same MCV technologies will then work across all standards-based equipment and networks worldwide.
FirstNet broadly defines its LTE network in distinct layers: Core Network, Transport Backhaul, Radio Access Network (RAN) and Public Safety Devices.
FirstNet is responsible for building the enhanced packet core network, a key component for ensuring that users have a single interoperable platform nationwide. The core network has six primary functions: it switches data, processes and reformats information, stores and maintains data and keeps it secure. Applications and services and operational and business support systems also reside in the core network. The core will interface with other state, local and federal networks, including 911 and the Internet. Essentially, the core serves as a giant umbrella covering all of the United States including the territories and the District of Columbia. The core is connected to radio access networks in each state via the backhaul layer of the network.
These are the links that carry user traffic, such as voice, data and video, and signaling from the radio base stations to the core network. FirstNet Technology and Tools
Radio Access Network (RAN)
The RAN portion of the network consists of the radio base station infrastructure that connects to user devices. RAN includes cell towers as well as mobile hotspots embedded in vehicles that backhaul to the core network over satellite or other types of wireless infrastructure.
Comprehensive RAN planning is required to optimize coverage, capacity and performance for a nationwide network. Initial modeling has shown that tens of thousands of radio base stations are needed to cover at least 99 percent of the population and the national highway system. Population coverage alone won’t suffice for public safety. State by state, FirstNet needs to understand public safety coverage needs.
During consultation, FirstNet will work with the states to determine the coverage expectations and priorities that must be included in the RAN deployment plan to enable public safety to meet its mission, no matter where it takes them.
The very circumstances that can require first responders to come to the aid of others can also wreak havoc on RAN sites when first responders need coverage the most. Making a system reliable – one that public safety can trust – requires physical and operational redundancy and hardening.
Most network outages are due to power failures and the loss of data links. To be public safety-grade, FirstNet sites will need redundant power backup that relies on a variety of sources. Power, backhaul, sites and coverage will be designed with the goal of avoiding single points of failure.
Public Safety Devices
Devices are all the user access points that will send and receive information over the network. Everything from smartphones to laptops, tablets, dongles and a wide variety of specialty devices will be developed for FirstNet users. The goal is to create devices that are rugged enough to withstand the many public safety environmental issues, but still be easy to use and convenient to carry. Devices will also have to be easy to administer and secure.
With the potential for millions of users, FirstNet will have the scale and leverage to drive development and procurement of devices at the best possible prices. Scale can also spur interest from a number of new vendors, which can enhance vendor/design diversity, increase competition and help lower prices for public safety devices. In the future, FirstNet will work with industry to develop device types and applications to meet public safety use cases identified by public safety users. FirstNet devices and applications will undergo a variety of testing and certification in areas including interference, operation, environmental factors and security.
Keep up with the newest advances by visiting the FirstNet Website.
What is the NPSBN?
Mandated through federal legislation, the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) is an interoperable nationwide high-speed broadband network dedicated to public safety that is capable of withstanding natural and manmade disasters.
Who will be allowed to access the network?
The network is dedicated to public safety. Entities that support public safety—such as utility companies and transportation entities—will be able to access the network as part of their public safety support mission.
How will the network support public safety responders?
The network will provide public safety responders with prioritized, real-time access to their mission critical data during incident response. Currently, public safety agencies do not have prioritized access on commercial networks. As was the case during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, commercial networks can become overwhelmed during major incidents, which limits public safety’s ability to access data. The NPSBN also will increase access to bandwidth that is capable of supporting sophisticated data applications, such as streaming video, geo-spatial applications, telemetry, computer-aided dispatch (CAD) access, mobile field reporting, etc.
Who will build the network and when will it be available?
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is charged with overseeing the construction of the network. FirstNet will possess the license to the 20 MHz of radio spectrum that has been dedicated to the network, and FirstNet also will own the network core. The radio access network (RAN) portion of the network—consisting of all of the communication sites (e.g., towers) and the radio and data transportation components associated with them—will either be built by FirstNet or the state. FirstNet will develop a deployment plan for each state. That plan will be delivered to the governor, who then has 90 days to decide whether FirstNet will build the RAN, or the state will assume the responsibility of construction and operation of the RAN. This is referred to as the “opt-in/opt-out” decision.
If the governor decides that Arizona will assume this responsibility, then the state must submit a plan to the FCC for approval; once the plan is approved, the state can apply to NTIA for grant funding. The exact date that the network will be available for use is unknown; however, the Act expires at the end of December, 2022.
How much will it cost, and who is responsible for the cost?
The $7 billion in funding included in the Act for the entire network is not nearly enough to build a network of this size and scope. FirstNet is mandated to develop a self-sustaining business model for network construction and operation. FirstNet will bear the cost of constructing the network core, and the RAN in Arizona, unless the governor chooses to “opt-out”; then the state would bear the cost and responsibility of constructing the RAN. In either case, individual agencies choosing to use the network would be responsible for purchasing their data devices (i.e., cellular phones, tablets, and laptops) and paying a subscription fee for each device, similar to subscription fees for commercial networks. The fees would be set by FirstNet or the state (if it opts out), anticipating that charges would be competitive with current commercial wireless fees. Any revenues the state generates from the network must be put back into the network. Any revenues produced above and beyond those necessary to operate and sustain the network must be sent to FirstNet for use in the nationwide network. States are not permitted to use funds generated from the network toward their general fund, or any other purpose outside of the network.
Will the NPSBN replace my public safety land mobile radio (LMR) system?
No. While there will be voice communication capability when the NPSBN is introduced, the quality will not be “mission critical,” which public safety agencies require for their life-safety missions. Mission-critical communications include capabilities such as point-to-multipoint communication and device-to-device direct communication when the user is not connected to a network. These capabilities are not yet part of the selected long-term evolution (LTE) technology platform. It is not anticipated that the network will have mission-critical communication capabilities for the foreseeable future, so existing public safety LMR systems must continue to be maintained. The NPSBN will supplement LMR communications for access to mission-critical data.
Will I have to use the network?
No. There is absolutely no mandate for any agency to adopt and utilize the network.
Who is planning the network within the state, and what will my agency need to provide?
There are various data elements that need to be collected from around the state for network planning. Arizona has established the AZPSBN Team to collect the data, interface with FirstNet, and evaluate the FirstNet offering to advise and assist the governor in making the opt-in/opt-out decision. The AZPSBN Team will identify all public safety agencies in the state and collect the specific data requested by FirstNet, which includes: how public safety currently uses wireless communications; where coverage is needed; and who should be allowed to use the network in support of public safety. This allows the AZPSBN Team to provide updates on the progress of the network build-out and to ensure that FirstNet is able to contact each agency to determine if they want to join once the network is operational. Data will be collected and provided to FirstNet through stakeholder meetings and online surveys.