This is the second 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.
Members of the FirstNet management team recently paid a visit to Las Cruces, New Mexico to meet with state officials about their planning for the state’s BTOP-funded public safety broadband network. While the network is not expected to be operational until mid-2015, the state of New Mexico already is providing FirstNet with a number of unique lessons learned and best practices to leverage for the planning and deployment of the nationwide public safety broadband network.
For example, the state is looking to partner with another Early Builder (EB) project to utilize their core network services. In addition, New Mexico is working with Federal agencies that operate in the state to leverage their assets for the network and provide network access to Federal responders, with a focus on border security.
As a key first step, New Mexico successfully negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Interior and leveraged the document as a foundation for an agreement with Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The border security collaborative effort with CBP, in particular, will focus on the identification of illegal incursions and the integration of real-time sensor data to aid in interdiction and arrest.
In terms of project specifics, the state plans to use up to 8 existing state or local and 4 Federally-owned towers to provide Long Term Evolution (LTE) service to state, local, and Federal agencies.
In addition, New Mexico is developing the capability to use Enhanced Packet Core (EPC) services from another EB network project in Harris County, Texas. With Harris County prepared to act as the host core, New Mexico is working to identify and address a number of key factors associated with integrating remote Radio Access Networks (RAN) to core networks – including technical, schedule, and cost considerations.
Given these characteristics, FirstNet has focused its key learning conditions for this project around assessing:
- The feasibility of hosting a single Enhanced Packet Core (EPC) among multiple RANs
- Spectrum management and use issues along the Southwest Border with Mexico
- Sharing of use among Federal and state organizations
In collaborating with New Mexico on these key issues, the FirstNet team is learning much about RAN-build challenges in high-desert geographies, as well as challenges associated with managing across the many partners involved in one of the more complex EB programs. As with the other EB projects, FirstNet looks forward to continuing to evaluate the lessons learned from the New Mexico project to help inform planning for the nationwide public safety broadband network.