So let me get this straight, FirstNet’s answer to the PSBN is going to be an MVNO (Managed Virtual Network Operation) with a carrier? What that means is that FirstNet is going to become another Straighttalk or Simpletalk. These types of providers actually have no infrastructure, they lease the space on a large carriers network and ride piggyback on their footprint providing competing services to the carrier. In this case the commercial carriers will suck up the D-Block spectrum for free and administer FirstNet’s service through the additional spectrum. The fact remains the same that FirstNet will still ride the commercialized infrastructure (towers, backhaul, etc..) of the carriers. Plus, the FirstNet will only cover the major metropolitan areas, because that’s where the carriers are.
The real issue here is that Public Safety will still be on the commercial carriers network; the same network that has issues of rendering prioritization and resiliency to Public Safety when a catastrophe happens, i.e. earthquake, hurricane or tornado. Wasn’t that the whole reason for allocating the D-Block to Public Safety was so that Public Safety could build their own dedicated, hardened, network? To add to that the commercial carriers only cover 42% of the landmass in the US, that being major revenue producing metropolitan areas. What do we do about the remaining 58%?
Supposedly FirstNet will partner with rural telecom providers. If you thought the commercial standards for deploying cell phone service, with the major carriers, was bad, wait until you have to interface with the local or regional carriers. Which by the way even the local and regional carriers utilize the same infrastructure as the carriers. For the real rural areas the local or regional carriers are actually operated and owned by the utilities. In some cases you can have a lone wolf of a local carrier running service in the far reaches of open space, but they are extremely constrained in what they can offer and the age of their gear is not up to par…cost too much for these smaller guys. Plus, most of them are family owned as well -- so much for the rural experiment for FirstNet.
On top of the issues with riding the infrastructure of a commercial carrier, how does FirstNet plan to sell such services, prioritized and hardened? It may be just me, but don’t the States already get such service from the commercial carriers today? Why would a State want to purchase broadband service from FirstNet when it will be more expensive, less reliable, and lacks the geographic footprint they already have? Imagine the negotiations between a State and FirstNet?
FirstNet: Ok, here is some broadband service that will cost you $100 a month. We utilize the same carriers infrastructure that you are already using. We also have this real nice operational solution to insure your service is prioritized, although we are still on the carrier’s infrastructure, so if a storm comes we may lose service. But, it’s the same type of service you’re already getting today, so it shouldn’t impact you too much. And by the way, you get to buy this really expensive handset that go can go under water and talk with a lot of people for $1500 dollars, no returns, sorry. But it’s the same type of service you get on your personal cell phone today, so at least you will know how to make calls and receive pictures.
State: What? I get my service today for less than $20 and my phones are only $50. I know the service I have today is spotty and goes down a lot, but that’s why I have my LMR radio, plus I have more apps available with my personal phone than this brick you have. Why would I change what I got today just to pay you more, buy more expensive handsets, stay on the same network I’m already on, and not even beat the reliability I need that I’m already getting?
All FirstNet is doing is adding another layer of bureaucracy by installing an operational element just above the carrier and just below Public Safety. Don’t’ let them fool you, FirstNet will never be able to prioritize their traffic over the carrier’s revenue producing consumers. That would be a dumb mistake by the carrier. Nothing better than taking out thousands of dollars a second just so the Police can send some video. In fact, if this is the plan why do we need them at all? Most of the States and Agencies already get such service from the same carriers today. These are the same carriers that FirstNet wants to do a deal with in their partnership. The main reason the States and Public Safety want to get rid of the carriers is because of the priority and the hardening aspects. There is no getting around the issue. The whole deal is setting up is turning out to be a disaster. There is a solution though!
FirstNet, just set yourself up as the operational element for the national topology of the Public Safety Broadband Network. Let the States build out their own networks utilizing a standard you create and a framework of a Public Private Partnership (P3) to execute on. As part of that P3 just state you get 5% of the revenue to help sustain your portion of the network. Then let the States reinvest their portion of the P3 back into their own portion of the network and allow the private investors to garner revenue from the Priority 2 and 3 users. You keep the $7 Billion as part of your national footprint needs. States won’t need it because Private Investment will pay for it. In this scenario you can give broadband service to the Public Safety for free and still grant them priority 1 service. It really is that simple, especially to a guy who has been building these networks for more than 20 years.
But who am I other than…
Just some guy and a blog…