This is the first in a series of blog reports on FirstNet’s role in and observations from the five “Early Builder” (EB) public safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) network projects. The EBs include four NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grantees in New Jersey, Adams County (Colo.), the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LA-RICS), and New Mexico, as well as Harris County (Texas), which is being funded through other grants and local contributions.
FirstNet has entered into Spectrum Manager Lease Agreements (SMLA) with each Early Builder (EB) that enables them to access the public safety spectrum in the 700 Megahertz band to deploy broadband communications capabilities for emergency responders. FirstNet is providing dedicated support to each of the EBs to glean learning opportunities and best practices to leverage for the deployment of the nationwide public safety broadband network.
As part of their SMLAs with FirstNet, each EB has a set of key learning conditions that are specific to their project. In addition, FirstNet is working with the EB project teams to identify other lessons learned that can inform our plans for a nationwide network.
The New Jersey BTOP project is focused on the use of deployable communications assets. Although it is not yet operational, the project has begun to generate valuable formal and informal learning conditions for FirstNet and the state. The project is being led by Fred Scalera, who is the state’s Public Safety Broadband Program Manager and single point of contact (SPOC) for FirstNet.
In terms of the network architecture, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHSP) plans to implement deployable networks in three service regions within the state consisting of the Route 21 Corridor in north central New Jersey, Camden in southern New Jersey, and Atlantic City. The network will utilize Systems on Wheels (SOWs) and Cells on Wheels (COWs) equipped with microwave backhaul. Satellite will also be utilized on the corresponding SOWs. New Jersey plans to position a portion of those assets in “ready standby” for use in emergency situations.
As part of FirstNet’s SMLA with New Jersey, the three key learning conditions for this project focus on: (1) demonstrating and documenting the use and capabilities of rapidly deployable assets (including the use of satellite backhaul); (2) conducting emergency management exercise and training activities utilizing the deployable assets; and (3) documenting Network Operations Center (NOC) notification procedures and best practices, including trouble ticketing, notification, escalation, prioritization, reporting, and close out for use of deployable assets and coordination with FirstNet.
In addition to these learning conditions, the project has produced other lessons learned and findings, including:
- New Jersey fire agencies have creatively targeted the use of utility mapping data, which shows water mains and hydrant locations en route
to an incident, to help speed routing and response times;
- The state has also focused on the potential integration and interoperability of license plate recognition technologies between agencies and counties;
- New Jersey is reviewing challenges with Quality of Service, Priority, and Pre-emption (QPP) from operating at the application level on some public safety entity-managed Mobile Virtual Private Networks.
Given that challenges with QPP have been observed at all five EB projects, FirstNet’s technical team will be working with the public safety and vendor communities to address QPP. Our approach will be to develop flexibility for local agencies to manage their devices and services, while balancing the need for interoperability and support of QPP functionality.
FirstNet would like to recognize NTIA for their continued work with the BTOP projects and thank them for helping facilitate FirstNet’s successful implementation of the network. FirstNet looks forward to continuing to leverage the lessons learned from the New Jersey network and the other EB projects to generate lessons learned that can help inform the planning and deployment of the nationwide network.