Tuesday, July 1, 2014

FirstNet Public Safety Broadband - Local Control of FirstNet and Hidden Agendas?

There is a lot of talk about the technical approaches to prioritization and localization for command and control of the Public Safety Broadband Network -- FirstNet. The fact is that there are multiple layers of prioritization and control, but its adoption is quite simple. Allow me to explain.

The technical approach to prioritizing LTE broadband is an easy subject to be overwhelmed with. At first glance you have this technology that can prioritize in so many ways that it becomes confusing. It’s not the technology that makes it confusing; it’s our own thought process. We tend to over-analyze all the various options with an assortment of data then apply it to the overly researched equipment and situations that we think needs to be addressed as part of the network. With over 260 different variables to choose from, in the current LTE solutions, I would be surprised if we use more than a dozen, the carriers don’t use more than seven. It really doesn’t have to be that complex, then again the vendors may want you to be overwhelmed to sell you more.

The fact of the matter is that you just need to separate the build from the applications and devices that will ride on it. By combining the two topics only confuses the masses. By focusing on the build you will see that we are looking at actual construction activity, installation, rights-of-way, site acquisition and many other physically related requirements. When you put it all together all we have is the deployment of an access LTE, Microwave & Fiber backhaul and centralization of communication routes issue. The technology is what it is. We design and deploy the technology for the given physical characteristics of the geography; along with those characteristics is our ability to get as much out of the technologies reach and capabilities that are possible. There is no design of handsets, or prioritization schemes yet -- that will come after.

Getting back to prioritization, the real simple way to look at prioritization is not to be drawn into the weeds on this. Let me give you an example: we have a State, County then City; each has its own jurisdictions and levels of command and control oversight. This layering of control is not because someone wants to be the all-powerful Oz, but because an individual can only handle what is in front of him or her. I’m sure a local Police Chief won’t have the time, nor the will, to manage what goes on in the entire County, or the State, he or she is only interested in what their AOR (Area of Responsibility) brings – or vice versa. Essentially, this Police Chief would be the most knowledgeable about his AOR, not the County, nor the State, and definitely not the Federal Government, thus, localization and control has to be localized and isolated to those that best know the AOR. Plus, legally the State is responsible to help this Police Chief when needed, that’s what’s in the State’s laws, policies and regulations – and it’s Constitution. Unless, of course, we have a new National Police Force that I’m not aware of, and which does not have to abide by State law, which is not out of the realm of possibilities these days.

As for the actual physical prioritization scheme, in relationship to the technology, the application of prioritization is very simple. All the State, County and Local Chiefs need to do is classify who the Priority 1, Priority 2, and Priority 3 Users are, then you set the network up with the same prioritization and place the Users in their appropriate database. It doesn’t matter who is on the network, those with Priority 1 access will be able to boot Priority 2 and Priority 3 users. Priority 2 will be able to boot Priority 3 Users. Priority 3 won’t get to boot anybody. If an incident Commander wants to make a Priority 2 or 3 Users as part of the Priority 1 Users, all they have to do is adjust the database. These databases are easy to adjust and can be done with an App, you can even have time constraints on when the User will be put back into their original pool of Priority Users. It really isn’t that hard to understand, but we tend to overcomplicate things due to our own lack of knowledge or hidden agendas.  

Lack of knowledge is easy to fix, hidden agendas is a whole other realm of politics. The fact is the control of the network is not about the physical layout of the Core, it’s about policies and governance. There are those within the Administration, and the States, that understand the power that this network will bring to the Nation. All this talking about net neutrality can be solved with this network, even if it is being built for Public Safety. The fact is the technology will keep outpacing us when it comes to coverage and bandwidth. Forget about the spectrum being manipulated and focus on the garnishment of bandwidth. But, the only way you will be able to solve this problem is through The Myers Model™Public Private Partnership. But then again, what do you expect when you have lawyers building your telecommunications network?

The only reason anybody would be interested in slicing and dicing the spectrum is if they truly are heroic in their cause, or most likely, their intentions are to take spectrum away from on group to give it to others for their own use, leaving the original owners of the spectrum scratching their heads as they realize they still have to build their network anyway -- only now they get to do it with less spectrum. Bait and switch is what this is called, or could be construed as larceny, but in reality it’s a true case of the wealthy stealing from Robin Hood.

As the network is prioritized by the Users demands, even within those prioritization schemes will be mini-virtual networks tying together associated groups of sub-users. For example: Priority 1 Users will be made up of First Responders and within those First Responders there will be sub-virtual networks established for the Police, Fire and EMS. Even though the users are prioritized over everybody else, their traffic patterns are still compatible with each other, this allows them to be on the same network and to communicate with others on the network when needed, essentially setting up their own call-group or email list. It’s that simple. The same will happen for the Priority 2 and 3 User Groups as well.

This is quite common in the telecommunications industry today; it’s called Dynamic Bandwidth Allocation. If you buy access today, and want to connect all your offices, this is how the carriers, or ISPs, do it; they just establish virtual private networks, at the bandwidth level, to isolate and protect traffic in Virtual Private Networks – telecoms 101. Examples would be Cricket, Straighttalk, Netflix and others. In the Priority 2 User Group of the PSBN those players will have virtual private networks that isolate traffic between Utilities, Transportation and others. Priority 3 Users have the same where as the commercial carriers will use their own virtual network isolated from their competition. I’m not making this stuff up, it’s been around for years now.

In short, don’t get all caught up in this. The more we focus on it, the more complicated we make it, when it isn’t.

One further note: even though we are having all these conversations about prioritization and control, the reality is we may never even contend with the physical capabilities of the broadband network being deployed. If one carrier can have 100+ Million Users on its network, I’m sure a more robust, hardened, protected network that covers 100% of the Nation will definitely be able to handle this load. Remember, geographically, this network will be twice the size of AT&T and Verizon combined.

But then again, I’m ….

Just some guy and a blog….

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