Wednesday, March 20, 2013

FirstNet is Chaos! Now what? "Let's use this chaos as an opportunity to gain ground." (Obama, 2007)

FirstNet’s progress to date is not short of chaos. This may give credence to the lack of an organization behind the established FirstNet Board – as was alluded to by Chairman Sam Ginn some months ago.

As I pointed out in earlier writings, the lack of understanding the path toward full deployment and timelines for the Public Safety Network is being convoluted with unnecessary noise. Building a wireless LTE network with backhaul is not new. What needs to be understood, which I believe will clear a lot of the fog, is that the Board needs to adopt a business model that uses Public Private Partnerships that the State can follow. Such a model needs to benefit both FirstNet holistically and the State – it can’t be one-sided. It’s not perfect, but being that I have studied this for the last ten years indiscriminately (and probably the only person in America who made the asinine decision to voluntarily put myself through such an endeavor), I can safely state that it is the best solution. What pains me is how we force ourselves to indulge in our inability to comprehend the fact that we are promoting this cloud of confusion -- pun intended. Henry the VIII of England would have been proud of us.

At the onset we heard little to anything about Public Private Partnerships. Now it is starting to be a term used in daily conversations and was highlighted in the Senate Oversight Committee hearing on March 14th. We have come far since last March. It should be understood that certain parties will try to confuse the picture so that they can get the best advantage, but unfortunately its just clouding the picture of our advancement.

“During a hearing before the communications and technology subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce committee, Ginn said he understands and appreciates the need for government to be transparent in its activity. However, certain rules and regulations associated with government entities are especially onerous and could slow the deployment of the network being built by FirstNet, which is expected to include public-private partnerships.”(Donny Jackson, Urgent Communications, posted March 19th,2013)

There are a few on the board who somewhat understand how commercial telecoms has worked in the past, but there are those that have not been part of that industry directly. But, sometimes the best way to clear the air is by being bombarded with all the noise. Now is probably the best time to step back and look at it from a higher-level by asking ourselves:

·      What are we building?  A broadband wireless network with backhaul. We chose LTE, which is the latest and greatest. Backhaul is backhaul and hasn’t changed since the first cell phone networks went up.
·      Who are we building it for? Public Safety Service Organizations (notice I did not just say First Responders).
·      Why are we building it? To provide a hardened protected private network that can stay up during disasters and that can be prioritized to meet First Responder needs.
·      Where are we building it? Ultimately 100% of the geographic landmass. It will deploy in phases so just stick with the first phases then move to the next.  
·      How are we going to deploy it? Like we usually do by issuing RFPs at the State level.
·      Where will we get the specifications on how to build it? Technical specifics will come from FirstNet. Tactically from the internal and external State agencies and entities that require private broadband service within a given State. Financially from the partnership of FirstNet, the State and the Private Equity respondents.
·      How are we going to pay for it? Through State generated RFPs for Public Private Partnerships that utilize the spectrum as a commercial carrier would by monetizing the access to the spectrum through leases and subscriptions then selling it to private equity as a package so that they will pony up and pay for its installation and long-term management (via the State generated RFP). Of course access to the spectrum and sharing in the recurring revenue with the Private Equity awardee....49% of millions of dollars is not a bad return. 
·      How will it work nationally? By establishing interoperable connections between the State networks back into a national call center for control – Core-to-Core establishment. If necessary establish commercial carrier roaming agreements to access non-private network traffic. I would not recommend connecting to the commercial carriers until we get a handle on cyber security therefore it will be important to keep the network private for awhile. A good case study should be the DoD NIPRNet and SIPRNet networks. 

Being more directly involved with the strategy and planning for many broadband networks I can definitely attest to the fact that this really isn’t rocket science.

Just some guy and a blog….

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