“I think, in a business plan, you have to answer some very fundamental questions, like, “Can you provide the reliability and coverage required of public safety? Can you provide the services? Can you provide an app engine that allows them to innovate in their jobs? Can you construct this network for [$7 billion], plus the capacity returns that we could expect from a partner?’” Ginn said.

“From my point of view, until you can answer those questions, you don’t have a business plan. So, we have a roadmap to get to a business plan, because there are so many issues out there that would influence those final numbers.”

To illustrate his point, Ginn noted that a fundamental network-design question will have a significant impact on FirstNet’s financial model.

“A perfect example would be, ‘Is this system going to need 35,000 cell sites or 24,000 cell sites [nationwide]?’ We don’t quite know the answer to that yet. We’re working very hard on it. But how you answer that question would change all of the economics of the system.

“We have a lot of issues just like that, so this management team and this board have to work through those issues. And, as we do, we will narrow the issues down to a point where we can truly present a business plan.”

Board members met for more than an hour in closed session, when board members discussed the “significant challenges” facing FirstNet and an action plan to address the challenges, Swenson said. Upon returning to public session, D’Agostino read from a prepared statement that will be posted on the new FirstNet website.

Some key notes from D’Agostino’s statement include the following:

  • FirstNet plans for its terrestrial LTE network to cover 60% of the U.S., and communications with the rest of the country will be achieved through the use of deployable communications, mobile communications, satellite system and public-private partnerships with rural infrastructure providers.
  • FirstNet’s system will be hardened at the physical, user-access and cybersecurity layers and will provide local control to public-safety entities that subscribe.
  • FirstNet’s system will be built and maintained with the $7 billion in funding from Congress, user fees and “agreements with third parties that will leverage the value of secondary use of our excess capacity.”