Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Public Safety Broadband - FirstNet - What is the real reason people think the carriers should build the PSBN?

I just read Fierce Mobiles article “Slow Rollout of FirstNet could doom nationwide interoperability”. It was an interesting read, but I don’t agree with Mr Peha. In a short phrase from one of my earlier mentors, George Cirolini, I can hear him say, “well that’s a bunch of bull larky!”
Just because you do a deal with the “devil” (one of my earlier entries) doesn’t mean the network will be up and running any faster with the carriers. Remember, we are using new spectrum, spectrum that even the carriers aren’t deployed on, that means antennas need to be installed, towers need to be retrofitted, backhaul needs to be upgraded and coverage maps need to be redrawn….just like a new network. Plus, imagine all the “interoperability” that needs to be designed into the carrier’s already existing topology and network process architectures, such requirements alone will over complicate a carrier solution for FirstNet. How do you keep this new network, which would be, supposedly, delivered by the carriers, seperate from the revenue business of a carrier? You wouldn't, because that is where the gotcha is....the carriers gotcha at that point in time, and there is no easy way out from then on because all of your infrastructure, and requirements, will be entrenched into the carriers revenue generating architecture.  The only way you can even consider a deal with the carriers to be quicker than a statewide deployment, would be through an MVNO (Managed Virtual Network), which, if that were the case, why dedicate spectrum to Public Safety? The whole reason we have separate spectrum is because this will be a protected, private and secure network, not just another virtual network. But what do you expect when a bunch of lawyers are designing a network, if that were the case then I should be able to script law.
Why do we need to deploy the network in such an expedient manner anyway? Once consruction gets started, it is what it is. The truth is, it would actually be faster to build at the state level anyway, and for those that think the network will end up being a mish-mash of networks, think again. For the past 40 years we have been building towers for backhaul. Microwave and fiber transport connections haven't change all that much in how they are installed. Even the cellular networks have been installed, built and designed the same way since our first generation cellular towers. So why do some within the industry think it won't be feasible for us to build a private network, and that only the carreirs can do this? Like I said the carriers haven't been building their own networks for years, heck, AT&T is selling off their infrastructure of towers to the tower companies in order to get away from owning the assets. Why would a carrier suddenly decide to reverse course just for Public Safety? 

We mustn't over complicate this -- all we are doing is building a wireless network that happens to cover more ground. In the past our designs and coverage maps were developed to get market penetration for the most handset subscribers, with Public Safety Broadband we don't have those complications -- it's all about complete geographic coverage. Mr Peha brings up some good points, but he is all over the map on providing any real guidance as to how to build the network. It's way to easy to overcomplicate this network rollout, when in reality its just another wireless construction job.
The most expedient way to build this network will have to start from a center point (regionally) and built outward, that means project schedules, design timelines, sub contractor agreements, local resourcing and tower construction from the ground up. The only thing that would delay “Greenfield” is site acquisition, but site acquisition is a problem for the carriers as well, so the gains are moot. In this case we are talking about a national security interest, so we are actually positioned better than a carrier in that we can get site acquisition and zoning approved faster. Building a site from scratch would be the best, in that you don’t have to redesign different tower solutions. You just set a few standard templates for tower sites, with slight modifications, you can build a new tower quicker than trying to retrofit an old, especially when it has to be hardened, thus was the case for LA-RICS. This doesn't mean we just abandon all the existing towers assets, you just pick them based on the design needs and their hardening characteristics, no need to waste past investments. 
And this thing about handsets being more capable on commercial networks is not true either. You have to create new handsets anyway for hardening characteristics and the band 14 usage. Existing radios and handsets aren't equipped with such needs. Face it, this thing is best designed and built from the ground up, we just need to get over it and get the network started. Hat’s off to Pat Mallon and the LA-RICS for making that a reality and I look forward to New Mexico. Let the actual guys who build LTE do their job….carriers will do better just waiting for the PSBN to be built, then come in to bid on all the rural commercial users through the newly installed tower base.
Oh, and by the way, drop the talk about satellite for the time being, we got enough to focus on when it comes to LTE. Of course we will find a solution for the very remote areas using such technology, but, we shouldn't mix project goals. We should focus on layers and phasing of the rollout of the network. 

Then again….

I’m just some guy and a blog……

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