Urgent Matters

A funny thing happened on the way to IWCE 2017 …

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With the big FirstNet board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, IWCE attendees may notice some changes in the speaker lineups early in the week.

LAS VEGAS—Today marks the beginning of IWCE 2017, which is the 40th anniversary of the show and the 14th for me to attend. Based on the briefings I’ve received from various companies and industry sources, this year’s event promises be very exciting, with a wealth of cool product announcements and interesting information.

Of course, the week’s biggest announcement is expected to come from the FirstNet board, which is expected to vote to proceed with an award of the 25-year agreement with AT&T to build a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN). FirstNet’s special board meeting initially was scheduled to happen on Wednesday, but it was switched late last week to Tuesday at 9:00 am EDT (6:00 a.m. in Las Vegas).

It’s not the first time that big news regarding public-safety broadband has occurred during IWCE. In 2006, Nextel Communications co-founder Morgan O’Brien called for a large swath of 700 MHz spectrum to be allocated to public safety to support a nationwide broadband network dedicated to first responders. At IWCE in 2009, Verizon executive Steve Zipperstein advocated for the 700 MHz D Block to be allocated to public safety instead of being auctioned to commercial carriers—a position echoed by AT&T.

In 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law the omnibus legislation that created FirstNet—allocating it 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum and $7 billion—during IWCE week. Now, it looks like another big FirstNet milestone will occur during IWCE 2017.

Clearly, IWCE has been very fortunate to have such milestones happen during its event, and this year is another example. 

Such big news is great for public safety and the critical-communications industry, but it also means that several key players in FirstNet will have obligations on the East Coast for as they take the next steps in executing this massive project. Because teleportation is not an option, IWCE attendees may notice that some speakers in the 100-plus sessions this week—particularly on Monday and Tuesday—may be different than scheduled.

My understanding is that all scheduled speakers still plan to attend IWCE this year, but when they arrive will be impacted on their obligations and the ability to schedule flights. Personally, I am incredibly impressed with the commitment these speakers have exhibited to IWCE, even if attending might be inconvenient for them.

With the FirstNet board meeting being moved to Tuesday, the end result is that only one session has been rescheduled: the FirstNet Town Hall, originally slated for Wednesday afternoon, will now be conducted on Thursday at 3:45 p.m.

No further changes are expected, but IWCE attendees are encouraged to download the IWCE 2017 mobile app to their smart devices to get the latest information and updates. Meanwhile, enjoy the show—it should be a very interesting week.

 

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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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