Friday, November 7, 2014

FirstNet -- Public Safety Community! Never bite the hand that feeds you!

Everyone has heard the term “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”, well this may be the epitome of such a K-9 expletive. But, it’s been along time coming and finally we are getting somewhere. Addressing a recent article entitled, “Public-safety groups disagree on ‘public-safety entity’ definition, including utility usage of FirstNet”, dated Nov 6, 2014, by Donny Jackson of Urgent Communications.
“An electric utility, or any equivalent entity, does not fall within the definition of public-safety entity,” the APCO filing states. “Any conclusion to the contrary would be a plainly wrong reading of the Act’s provisions, and a stark departure from Congress’s intent to create a dedicated network for first responders.
“If Congress intended a broad definition of the kinds of entities that would be considered ‘public-safety entities,’ it certainly could have mentioned groups like utilities, highway departments, or building inspectors, etc., rather than reference existing statutes with language like ‘sole or principal purpose of which is to protect the safety of life, health or property’ and ‘emergency-response providers.’

What does “Public Safety Entity” mean? This question seems to be the topic of the day. I think a lot of people are confusing the term “Public Safety Entity” with “Priority Access”. There are a couple of things that one needs to consider.

The Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) is just a broadband network -- a broadband network running LTE as its RAN (Radio Access Network). In actuality the PSBN network is the exact same type of network and technology that runs our smart phones today. No we don't want the carriers to run this network! The only difference between deploying this solution from a carrier deployed solution is the frequencies that FirstNet will operate on -- plus a lot more hardening, protection, coverage area and its user base.

With the term “Public Safety Entity” it’s easy to see how one can envision some Fire Station or Police Station somewhere, but in reality anybody that performs some type of protection, life saving or intercession during an emergency is really considered a “Public Safety Entity” – such as Police, Fire, EMS, Utilities, Transportation and the likes. There is an issue when defining the “Public Safety Entity”.

When we try to define a “Public Safety Entity” it’s natural to think in terms of prioritization, this is where we need to focus in order to solve this problem. Defining “Priority Access” is not the same thing as just defining a “Public Safety Entity”. To define Priority Access we need to know the normal operational procedures and those procedures that are adhoc during a disaster from any and all entities that partake. From that analysis we can then allocate entities to certain pools of “customers/users”.

The broadband technology we have today; the fact that we are just now defining mobility; and the creative associated with new applications yet to be envisioned; the initial rollout of this network will be under utilized. We must consider these characteristics when defining priority access. During normal operations the justification is more specific to meeting the needs of a business model so we can fulfill self-sustainment and funding obligations. Defining priority access during an emergency is all about who needs to get there first, what must they do when they get there, and how should they support the bigger disaster situation at hand. To think you can fund, design, build, and operate a network based on just one of these defining processes will not suffice.  There is not enough revenue to “self-sustain” either solution separately. You need both.

In essence, when defining a “Public Safety Entity” you must first define a customer’s/user’s needs then define the technical Quality of Service (QOS) they will be assigned during times of normal operations and times during a disaster. It’s really that simple. If you are a Police, Fire or EMS entity then you will get priority 1 all the time. If you are a Utility you will get Priority 2 during normal operations and then, based on need, you will be provisioned Priority 1 as required. Most of the time this can be defined ahead of time and automatically applied when the incident commander takes charge – that’s part of the beauty of LTE.

Getting back to the “not enough revenue to sustain” comment – I want to discuss the term “Normal Operation”. As each entity is defined into their respective priority groups, Priority 1 group is First Responders; Priority 2 group is Governor defined service support organizations, i.e. Utilities, Transportation and the likes, we can concentrate on making the solution viable and sustainable for the long-term (there is also a Priority 3 group but we won’t talk about that just yet).   Priority 1 users need to realize the importance of Priority 2-3 users. This network will not be possible without the support and the user-base that these groups bring. Without their incorporation into the solution then Priority 1 users won’t have enough cash to make it work.

The spectrum is allocated to Public Safety, that’s why they’re defined as Priority 1, but those Priority 1 users mustn’t believe that they can design, build, operate and maintain such a complex platform of communications on their own. Let alone the cost impact on those organizations to equip their overheads with the talent needed. The fact is this broadband solution will redefine any organization as a telecommunications player that will compete with its overall mission of saving lives. We’re not talking about a 5-10 site LMR network; we’re talking about thousands of towers, backhauls solutions, fiber transport initiatives and hundreds, if not thousands, of provisioned services. Just the resources alone will blow away any OPEX budget on any Federally or State provided budget for Public Safety.

If AT&T spends $30 Billion in two years to do an upgrade what do you think FirstNet will require? AT&T only covers 42% of the geographic landmass. How many resources do you think AT&T employs just to make their own private network work? For a Public Safety organization to think they can do it on their own will only delay the inevitable. We must have cooperation between all three Priority Groups of users so that we can create a broadband company that mimics the requirements of commercial carriers, yet stays private in nature and purely focused on the broadband needs of the Priority Groups.

In closing, the technology can decipher, isolate and prioritize the traffic anyway we want and on any given situation. The governance will establish the framework for the prioritization of users in both normal situations and during disasters. Given the size and the complexity of the required broadband solution, it is inconceivable to think that “Public Safety Entities” can do it alone – it has to be a partnership between Priority 1, Priority 2 and Priority 3 requirements. Thus, in defining the term “Public Safety Entity” we need, we require, that the term stay "broad" in nature, and yes, we must always remember who the Priority 1 users are. Nobody “owns” this network. The network is being built as a national asset in support of prioritizing Public Safety first under one homogenous broadband communications platform. If anybody physically “owns” this network it would be at the State level. FirstNet will govern the national asset from the Federal level in support of Public Safety in general and for the State’s needs. Public Safety doesn't exist otherwise.

To put things in perspective though, as I have stated in the past, its just an LTE network. Technically we can design it anyway we want, but who gets access, and what priority they fall in, has to come from the State Governor. That is where they project team will sit when designing, building and implementing the State's portion of the network, so this is where our focus should be. 

But then again I’m…

Just some guy and a blog….

No comments:


Words to Live By: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” (Steve Jobs)