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What will happen at FirstNet during the next few years? Check out this timeline for potential answers

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With AT&T being awarded the 25-year contract to build the nationwide FirstNet system last week, here is a glimpse at the proposed milestones we may see during the next few years. 

March 2018: LTE Release 13 equipment that supports key public-safety features like mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) functionality is expected to be commercially available by this time, according to most industry analysts. Some features likely will be developed earlier and tested during 2017, according to sources.

March 30, 2018: Target deadline for IOC-2, which marks the first coverage milestone for the Band 14 network, according to the RFP. With IOC-2, 20% of planned Band 14 coverage—both in rural and non-rural areas—is scheduled to be completed. Static quality of service, priority and preemption (QPP) are schedule to be implemented throughout the Band 14 system. All financial systems associated with FirstNet should be completed by this point, according to the RFP.

June 27, 2018: By law, any state or territory seeking to pursue the “opt-out” alternative will need to complete its RFP process 180 days after its governor makes the opt-out decision and present its alternative RAN plan to the FCC for review. The date cited here is 180 days from the Dec. 29 mentioned previously as a target deadline for governors to make their opt-out decisions.

After this, progress in the opt-out states and territories becomes less predictable, because the law does not establish timelines for the FCC and NTIA to make their respective decisions on the opt-out proposal (although the FCC has expressed interest in completing its interoperability review within 90 days, as long as there are not so many states participating in the “opt-out” process that is becomes impractical). In addition, there is no guidance regarding a timeline associated with FirstNet’s negotiation of a spectrum lease agreement with an opt-out state or territory.

March 30, 2019: Target deadline for the completion of IOC-3, which represents perhaps the most notable stage in the FirstNet deployment process. At this point, 60% of planned Band 14 coverage—and 50% of the final device-connections targets—is scheduled for completion in both rural and non-rural markets. In addition, the first phase of LTE Release 13 mission-critical systems such as MCPTT and public-safety-grade voice over LTE (VoLTE) are scheduled to be operational, and dynamic quality of service, priority and preemption (QPP) is supposed to be implemented throughout the system.

June 2019: LTE Release 14 equipment should be commercially available, according to most industry sources.

March 30, 2020: Target deadline for the completion of IOC-4, which calls for 80% of the final Band 14 coverage goals—in rural and non-rural markets—to be completed. From a functionality standpoint, mission-critical video and ProSe enhancements, which are designed to support direct-mode communications, are scheduled to be implemented.

March 30, 2021: Target deadline for IOC-5, which calls for 95% of all planned Band 14 coverage in both rural and non-rural markets to be completed, as well as 100% of the public-safety device-connection targets being met. At this point, LTE Release 14 gear should be integrated into the FirstNet system, according to the RFP.

March 30 2022: Target deadline for the Final Operational Capability (FOC), when AT&T is scheduled to meet 100% of its coverage goals in both rural and non-rural markets. After this, the contractor will pay financial penalties if public-safety adoption does not meet its goals established when the award was made. All security, hardening and integration of other public-safety communications systems (for example, 911 centers) also will be completed, after going through several phases of development during the previous years.

2022-2042: FirstNet officials have been outspoken in stating that the organization is committed to the notion that nationwide public-safety broadband network will be upgraded as technology evolves, so the first-responder community never has to use obsolete communications. Exactly how that will be executed has not yet been announced publicly.

March 30, 2042: Initial FirstNet contract expires.

 

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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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