Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Carriers to Build FirstNet and the Nations Public Safety Network

There seems to be a lot of lobbying going on by the carriers to protect their turf markets. It seems the tension is rising and they are becoming increasingly worried about the potential of the Public Safety Broadband Network. Given the nature of the consolidation going on in their own markets, and the convergence to all IP networks, it may be a lesson to late.

 To me the carrier market is all about the money that can be made from providing commercial voice and data service. Nothing wrong with that. As far as it goes with FirstNet though, if the commercial carrier can meet the hardening requirements and the ability to expand the service functionality of Public Safety in whole, which includes all elements of Public Safety, then by all means it should compete to try and win that partnership. But as it stands today they continue to struggle with the cost benefit analysis of building solutions that meet the basic requirements. After all there are those that realize that this was the main reason the D-Block auction failed some years ago. It is also the main reason the carriers refuse to build out broadband to the rural areas today. As I stated...nothing wrong with a decision to be tidy with your budgets and to maintain a good ROI. Actually, if there is anything FirstNet should learn from the carriers is how to run a business by utilizing all the service capabilities of LTE, not trying to limit them.

 I also keep hearing people say that the carriers are the most knowledgable in knowing how to actually build an LTE network. I've been in the industry for 25 years and I have yet to see a commercial carrier build it's own network. If anything what FirstNet should do is start talking to the contractors who design, prep, build and maintain those tower infrastructures for the carriers -- they are the real ones who actually build them. What a carrier does best is design a solution that maximizes the utility of those networks to the most lucrative means possible, which is how it should be done.

 In a recent article I read a disturbing statement that the carriers don't believe Utilities should be part of Public Safety. I find that hard to contemplate given the recent storm damage in Washington DC or the outcome of Katrina (just to name a few). If Utilities were not part of the Emergency Response Centers (that were all rated as First Responders) the carriers themselves would not have been successful in restoring their own power, or even navigating to their established sites. Last I heard even a cell tower needs power. Heck even the NTU on the side of my house needs power. To put it in another perspective, in the last tornado outbreaks in Texas, I didn't see too many Police of Fire personnel reconnecting power lines, actually what I saw was the Police calling for the Utility to come in first. Had they not then lives could have been lost.

 What about other potential First Responders; how do you tell BART, or MUNI, in San Francisco, or any major mass transit subway, or light rail system in the nation, that's its own substantial Police force is not a First Responder? Had the MTA in New York not rolled their own Transit Police into the NYPD organization they would still maintain one of the largest Police Forces in the nation, even larger than the City of Charlottes Police Force.

 In the end it would be ill-conceived to believe that the LTE network that FirstNet builds does not meet all the standards attributed to all forms of First Responders. Actually it would be an insult to the tax payers and even the so called "Real First Responders". What do we gain by limiting the involvement of the PSBN to just Police, Fire and EMS? Where are the economies of scale or the efficiencies towards utilizing every last resource to save money. Let's do what the carriers do in this case....let's design and utilize the networks to the maximum its benefits. If we don't then it will be like buying a Ferrari and driving Miss Daisy, or buying a bus only to transport the driver. Who are we kidding?

 Here is another thought. If a major Utility, or hell, all the Utilities (to include Co-Ops), or even the transportation industry, can not get access to the D-Block spectrum then where will they get it from? If a High Speed Rail system, operating at 150 Mph, can not use human controls and is reliant upon high speed communications, such as LTE, where will they get the spectrum? Who wants to step up to say that 1000 passengers on a train moving at 150 Mph is not a vital asset to protect? Such networks have hardening requirements that fall way beyond what a "real" First Responder needs....will the carriers step up to build those hardened networks with the limited amount of subscribers? If a carrier won't step up to build out to the rural broadband users, then why would they build it for a single rail, Utility system or even the Police? This PSBN network is a lot more than just video and data feeds to a Patrol car and if our newly appointed FirstNet Board does not realize that..then we are in for a long hard ride that will eventually cost a lot of tax payer dollars and a few short careers.

 Just some guy and a blog....

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