Cover of Roadmap 2020 report over a graphic representation of a network spreading outwards and incorporating symbols of each of the six Roadmap domains.

Public Safety, Data Drive New Updates to FirstNet Authority Roadmap

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) Roadmap guides our efforts to enhance FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband network. As a strategic touchstone for the FirstNet Authority, the Roadmap reflects our commitment to delivering a differentiated network experience for all of public safety.

Today, with more than 1,000 public safety engagements completed over the last year, the FirstNet Authority is pleased to release an update to the Roadmap. The update incorporates feedback from thousands of public safety stakeholders and reflects emerging technology trends identified by academic and industry experts in the fields of communications and technology. 

Updating the Roadmap

Following its release in August 2019, the FirstNet Authority moved to implement the Roadmap, launching our first network investments in two of the Roadmap’s priority areas – the Core and Coverage. Totaling more than $200 million, these investments will set FirstNet on the path to 5G and expand the dedicated fleet of deployable assets to ensure FirstNet subscribers have the coverage and capacity they need during emergencies and events.

As we began to act on the blueprint laid out in the Roadmap, we recognized that the network today is not what it was when we first began drafting the Roadmap two years ago. The network continues to see expansive buildout and adoption across the nation, with more than 14,000 agencies now on the network, totaling 1.7 million connections according to our network contractor, AT&T. Also, as public safety agencies increasingly integrate mobile broadband into their daily operations, new communications needs are emerging.

Data-driven approach

With that in mind, the FirstNet Authority embarked on an engagement strategy to update the Roadmap to reflect these changing needs and other developments. The strategy relied on data gathered through targeted engagements with public safety and thorough research about the impact of communications technology on public safety operations.

To develop this update, we also included a more data-driven approach, incorporating polling and quantitative research into our data collection and public safety engagements. This approach provided us with more insight into the capabilities of the network and enabled us to get more specific and action-oriented feedback about key Roadmap areas. Additionally, interviewing academic and industry experts—plus a review of relevant publications—provided critical perspectives on long-term technology trends applicable to the public safety community.

From our engagement and analysis efforts, we concluded that the Roadmap’s foundation—the six technology domains—should remain the same in this update. Public safety reaffirmed the six domains are critical to the network’s success, and we believe that the FirstNet Authority can make the most impact on public safety communications by focusing our programs, activities, and investment dollars around them.

Roadmap priorities

While the overarching domains remain unchanged, we updated several aspects of the Roadmap based on the evolution of the network and public safety’s needs. These updates include the priorities and key technologies supporting the domains, which have been revised to maximize their potential to improve first responder effectiveness. A few examples of the changes are highlighted below:

  • Coverage – Public safety continues to place a high priority on indoor and outdoor coverage—that has not changed. However, given the deployable investment, the updated Coverage priorities now include an emphasis on unique coverage solutions that address the various environments in which first responders operate.
  • Situational Awareness – First responders emphasized the importance of locating public safety personnel during an emergency. The updated Roadmap identifies location services specifically for personnel, including vertical location within buildings (z-axis) and mapping, as a priority for public safety. This updated section also acknowledges the need for both a near- and long-term technology evolution perspective. It recognizes that in the coming years, the public safety community will need tools to process large volumes of data and turn that data into useful, actionable information that can inform decision-making processes.
  • FirstNet Push-to-Talk – Following the launch of FirstNet Push-to-Talk in March 2020, the Roadmap continues to prioritize critical features and support in operationalizing the solution, as well as the inclusion of mission critical video and data. 

These are just some of the many updates to make the Roadmap more current, specific, and action-oriented in key areas as identified by public safety and our research. The outcome is a strategic planning document that sets the direction for how the FirstNet Authority can evolve broadband technologies to address first responders’ critical communications needs. It will help the FirstNet Authority direct resources to the most promising and impactful priorities, both short- and long-term.

Public safety shapes FirstNet’s future

Moving forward, the Roadmap will continue to be an important document for incorporating public safety’s input into the FirstNet Authority’s investment process, as well as aligning our programs and activities to drive advances in public safety’s network. Thank you to the stakeholders who have engaged in this Roadmap process, working hand-in-hand with the FirstNet Authority. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the public safety and technology communities to advance the network and update our strategy for doing so.

 

The First Responder Network Authority will host two Roadmap Update webinars on November 18 and December 1 of 2020. FirstNet Authority staff and leadership will outline the data-driven approach to the Roadmap update and discuss updates to the Roadmap priorities. Register to join us on either date.

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