The 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.

  1. The FirstNet network will support public safety applications and key mission-critical network services with the goal to be transformative to first responders and the public safety community. The FirstNet applications strategy is to enable creation of new public safety applications while maintaining support for existing commercial applications in order to establish a portfolio of resilient, reliable, secure and easy-to-use applications for first responders. FirstNet envisions an application development ecosystem which provides a strong development environment, with tools and resources for testing, review and distribution of public safety applications.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. Learn more

  4. 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.

    Public safety factors

    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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    Device examples for illustration only

    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.

  7. The FirstNet Band 14 Incumbent Spectrum Relocation Grant program will provide financial assistance to eligible public safety entities in relocating their radios and systems from Band 14 in advance of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) development and deployment. FirstNet elected to establish the Band 14 Incumbent Spectrum Relocation Grant program to support the incumbents’ relocation costs, including retuning and reprogramming communications equipment. There are 15 public safety spectrum licensees operating narrowband systems on the FirstNet-licensed Band 14 spectrum under previously issued FCC authorizations.

    Band 14 Spectrum Relocation Scope

    Under the program, state, county and municipal government public safety entities that are currently FCC-licensed for and demonstrating current, active utilization of Band 14 spectrum frequencies for the express purposes of public safety communications are eligible to apply for this grant. The principal purpose of this federal grant program is to facilitate this relocation, and enable these public safety entities to continue to operate their public safety communications systems on other frequencies allocated by the FCC without interruption.

    Band 14 Spectrum Relocation Timeline

    FAQ Band 14 Incumbent Spectrum Relocation Grant Program

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