Urgent Matters

Join us for tomorrow’s webinar on FirstNet’s device ecosystem

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What will FirstNet have to consider when trying to help establish an ecosystem that will create devices that will meet public safety's requirements at an affordable price? Listen to tomorrow's Urgent Communications webinar for the answers.

While the focus right now regarding FirstNet and its nationwide broadband communications network for first responders is on network design and engineering, already there has been a lot of chatter regarding the devices that will operate on this network. Tomorrow, the ecosystem that will spawn those devices will be explored in a webinar hat will be moderated by Donny Jackson, editor of IWCE’s Urgent Communications,.

The expert panel for this event, sponsored by Elektrobit, includes:

·         Chuck Robinson, director of shared services for the city of Charlotte, N.C.

·         Jim Bugel, vice president, AT&T Public Safety Solutions

·         Joe Ross, partner, Televate LLC

·         Jani  Lyrintzis, vice president-wireless segment, Elektrobit

During a rehearsal call last week, Robinson said that whatever ecosystem emerges must produce devices that a public-safety agency can afford.

“Probably the thing that is going to impact local governments the most is affordability,” said Robinson, whose city has been exploring the possibility of building a public-safety LTE network.

“One of the driving factors in our deployment right now is that Band 14 devices—at least in the initial iteration—are sometimes as much as double what we’re paying for [a commercial] LTE trunk-mounted modem,” he continued. “That cost factor is something that’s going to be significant to local jurisdictions.”

One factor that potentially could drive up device costs is that they have to be rugged enough to withstand the rigors of use in a public-safety environment. Robinson suggested that FirstNet look at what the military is doing in this regard, while Bugel noted that commercial shipping companies also are “not very courteous” to their devices.

The point that Robinson and Bugel were trying to make was that it is vital that FirstNet consults as many entities as possible—even from non-traditional sectors—to discover best practices for developing reliable, feature-rich devices that are cost-effective.

“When [the Transportation Security Administration] was trying to figure out how to improve their lines, they brought in experts from Disney,” Bugel said.

Eventually the discussion migrated to the question of whether every commercial LTE device in the future should have Band 14 built in, as a way of creating the massive economies of scale needed to dramatically drive down costs.

According to Lyrintzis, modern devices already support multiple bands, so adding Band 14 to commercial LTE devices would be “no big deal.” The big question is security, because having Band 14 in commercial devices theoretically would expand the number of people that potentially could try to hack into the FirstNet system.

“Technology-wise, it’s very feasible,” Lyrintis said. “It is a valid point to talk about the security concerns of doing that, but even those can be overcome from a technology standpoint.”

According to Bugel, there’s another important factor that FirstNet will need to consider as it mulls the devices that will operate on its network.

“For every degree of deviation off the standard, it becomes exponentially more expensive—you cannot beat those economics,” he said. “So, FirstNet and public safety will need to work those standards, and then try to get enhanced standards in future versions. To try to modify [the current standards] there isn’t enough money to do it.”

What appears above only scratches the surface of what this panel will explore tomorrow. I hope you’ll tune in—I guarantee you will find it time well spent.

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

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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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