Urgent Matters

FirstNet turns to InfoVista for network-planning tool


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FirstNet has not made many commitments to vendors, but officials for the organization have confirmed that they are using the Mentum Planet product InfoVista as a software solution to help plan the network.

There are often more questions than answers in the mobile-wireless arena. That certainly is the case with FirstNet, which is charged with the monumental task of building a nationwide broadband network for first responders. While the organization has made great strides in terms of hiring quality staff and making outreach efforts to potential users and stakeholders, FirstNet has few concrete answers regarding many of the key questions being asked by potential users and vendors in the industry.

What will the network look like? Who will build it and how will it be procured? When will it be deployed in my geographical area? How much will subscribers pay to access the network? What is the long-term business model? Who will be FirstNet’s key partners? These are some of the questions that are on the minds of stakeholders that don’t have clear answers yet, for myriad reasons, that will be the subject of future columns.

There has been considerable angst within the vendor community around the fact that considerable resources have been spent proposing potential solutions to FirstNet for more than a year, but commitments and contracts to use any of them remain elusive.

One exception to this is InfoVista, a software company focused on wireless-network planning, including backhaul requirements and network service assurance. In one of the few outright statements regarding a vendor, FirstNet officials have confirmed that InfoVista’s Mentum Planet solution—typically referenced as “Planet” in the industry—is the network-planning tool they are using in these early stages of designing the terrestrial network and estimating costs.

InfoVista supports planning for both radio-frequency (RF) and Internet Protocol (IP) planning, which makes it ideal for supporting the FirstNet initiative, according to Jason Suplita, director of public safety at InfoVista. Another feature of the InfoVista solution is that it supports a view that depicts the overlay of an LMR network over LTE plans, Suplita said. This promises to be important, because both types of communications systems are expected to be operated simultaneously in most locations for several years, according to most industry analysts.

Perhaps the key characteristic of the software is that it supports collaboration based on input from many different sources and enables users to consider different network-design scenarios—a key attribute, given FirstNet’s desire to design networks with significant input from states and territories.

“What our tool does is it allows you to look at different options and the analysis for the options that you want to choose for using various assets in the state,” Suplita said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

RFexec (not verified)
on Feb 18, 2014

Does this mean that FirstNet will not outsource RF engineering? It would take a team of around 25 RF engineers a solid year to design a nationwide network.

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Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.


Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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