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Two FirstNet smartphones measuring FirstNet connectivity speeds

Demonstrating Priority and Preemption in the Boulder FirstNet Lab

December 1, 2021

The Boulder FirstNet Lab is a state-of-the-art laboratory in which the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) tests public safety functionality and features unique to the FirstNet network. Experts in the lab in Boulder, Colorado, have the capabilities to carry out network validation and testing of features such as priority, preemption, quality of service, and public safety-specific applications.

Testing Capabilities for Public Safety

Testing functionality and features for public safety in the lab allows the FirstNet Authority to demonstrate how the network operates. The lab is outfitted with Telecommunications Industry Association standards in mind and contains specialized equipment that can emulate thousands of device connections with a mix of different types of traffic such as messaging, voice calls, data, and video. These tests enable engineers to ensure that responders receive the quality of service and user experience expected and as designed for them on the network. This also provides the opportunity to demonstrate these unique capabilities to public safety agencies.

For example, using the specialized load test tools in the lab, researchers can simulate congestion on the network to show how priority and preemption work for first responders on FirstNet. In this demonstration, cell phones are setup in Radio Frequency (RF) isolation boxes to minimize interference and ensure users remain connected to the desired tower, sector, and frequency. Two cell phones on FirstNet make a video call and two commercial users make a video call. As the network is saturated with more traffic, commercial users begin to have a degraded video connection and experience. They are eventually preempted off the network while first responders remain connected with no interruptions. Additionally, devices on FirstNet are able to disconnect and reconnect or make another call with no issue, whereas commercial users remain unable to make non-9-1-1 calls while the network is congested.

Virtual Demonstrations Available

Experts at the Boulder FirstNet Lab are available to provide virtual demonstrations to interested public safety agencies. If you would like to set up a demo, please contact your local Public Safety Advisor.


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Watch a priority and preemption demonstration in the lab: