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GCN : August and September 2016
GCN AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2016 • GCN.COM 35 When talking about the First Responder Network Au- thority (FirstNet), a com- mon theme emerges: time. Some early testers of the planned multibillion-dol- lar nationwide network say there’s not enough of it, while critics ask why it’s taking so long to get the system up and running. Four years after the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act cre- ated FirstNet as an independent gov- ernment authority to provide com- munication services for public safety organizations, the agency is preparing to award a contract in November. “For a procurement of this scope and scale that’s never been tried be- fore, we’ve gone as fast as we possi- bly could,” FirstNet CTO Jeff Bratcher said. “We’ve chosen the objective ap- proach for the request for proposals as opposed to [issuing specific] require- ments.” That allowed companies “to do what they do best, and that is in- novate and bring solutions for public safety and first responders that will meet their needs.” Ahead of that contract award, GCN took a look at FirstNet’s five Early Builder projects. Each project signed a spectrum manager lease agreement that lets it access the public safety spectrum in the 700 MHz band. By focusing on different aspects of first responder use, the projects will help FirstNet evaluate technical standards and capabilities, test new equipment and refine plans for future rollouts. “We’ve been really pleased with the interaction and collaboration we’ve had with each of the five projects, and it’s really gone a long way in help- ing develop our RFP,” Bratcher said. “We’ve learned a lot.” ADAMS COUNTY, COLO., COMMUNICATION CENTER Close to FirstNet’s technical headquar- ters in Boulder, Colo., Adams County was an Early Builder success story when it launched an LTE network in 2014. The county has run several tests since then. One evaluated video sur- veillance, situational awareness and photo applications during the 2015 International Ski Federation’s Alpine World Ski Championship in Vail. Par- ticipants were able to use push-to-talk (PTT) technology, which essentially turns a mobile phone into a walkie- talkie; view enhanced video surveil- lance from five cameras on band class 14; upload photos; and conduct situ- ational awareness and mapping. But preparing the 35 Sonim Tech- nologies ruggedized devices and 200 personal ones used in the demo took time, said Brian Shepherd, broadband program manager at the Governor’s Office of Information Technology. “I think the biggest thing we’d like to have done differently is have more time,” Shepherd said. “The technol- ogy we’re using in terms of mobile data [is] really a paradigm shift for first responders, and setting up the technology is almost as important as using the technology.” For another test, the county col- laborated with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to set up hunter safety check- points. Like the Vail demo, it took place in rural areas with little or no connectivity. Participants used wire- less, ruggedized handheld devices on band class 14 to scan radio frequency identification tags and enter and que- ry information in databases in real time. “We would have done more things from a networking approach if we’d had more time,” said Kim Coleman Madsen, broadband implementation manager at the Governor’s Office of IT. “Another thing — again related to time — is really being able to sit down with the users and understand their operational requirements and tailor the pilot or demonstration network to meet those operational require- ments.” Also, a live video feed would have made it easier for officials to find hunters who were avoiding the check- point, Madsen added. Creating real-time databases was more difficult than the team had ex- pected. “From the back end, there are a lot more moving parts to...the data and cellular communications than there [are] to voice communications,” Shepherd said. “So I think it’s just get- ting used to that idea that instead of two or three moving parts, we’ve got five or six moving parts.” LOS ANGELES REGIONAL INTEROPERABLE COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM LA-RICS aims to make a large re- gion less reliant on commercial in- frastructure. Earlier this year, the system proved itself during the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade when the $154.6 million LA-RICS network had to accommodate 90 handheld de- vices, eight fixed cameras, six mobile cameras, and video and situational awareness applications. The system passed with flying col- ors. At the height of the parade, its service was two to three times faster than that of commercial networks, ac- cording to FirstNet. LA-RICS Interim Executive Director John Radeleff also cited the successful deployment of the LTE system during the West Hollywood Halloween Car- naval, which attracts about 250,000 revelers. “Dispatchers were able to guide paramedic personnel to a patient in the crowd by using the live video from cameras along the route,” he said. Still, LA-RICS has faced some ob- stacles. Provisioning devices, for ex- ample, has been an issue. “The installation of routers has proven challenging due to the vast size of the public safety fleet in this region,” Radeleff said. “Additionally, the type of antennas varied accord- ing to vehicle type, in addition to the need to ‘map’ the wiring for the vari- ous electronic configurations found in vehicles.” He advocates developing installation templates. In addition, acquiring dual-band 0916gcn_034-036.indd 35 8/31/16 9:01 AM
June and July 2016
October and November 2016