FirstNet’s new laboratory will conduct testing to ensure that core public-safety devices, network features, capabilities and services will meet the reliability and performance requirements of first responders, although details will not be revealed until the nationwide contractor award is made, according to FirstNet officials.

Jeff Bratcher, FirstNet’s chief technology officer (CTO), said the lab in Boulder, Colo., will be used to test public-safety-specific devices, equipment, applications and capabilities not found in commercial broadband networks.

“We’re not going to duplicate anything that’s already being done in the broader commercial space for wireless, LTE or anything in the future,” Bratcher said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We’re really only focusing on the public-safety aspects of the network, and those key services and features.

“We’ll obviously be doing testing to make sure that it’s safe for networks and all the things that go along with introducing something into a wireless broadband network, whether it’s devices or applications.”

Some key network capabilities that will be tested in the FirstNet lab will be the ability for the much-anticipated nationwide public-safety broadband network to provide key capabilities like quality of services, priority and preemption (QPP) soon after the contractor award is made, Bratcher said. During the next few years, the lab also is expected to house testing of services like mission-critical voice, he said.

These features will be validated in the lab before being deployed in the field, but it not certain whether successful completion of test procedures—from performance metrics to cybersecurity assurance—will be recognized in the form of a certification or some other manner, Bratcher said.

“A lot of those details have yet to be ironed out, because we obviously have to take into account our partner and what they’re going to have as part of their processes,” he said.

Device certification will be part of FirstNet, as stipulated by law, Bratcher said. FirstNet’s enabling legislation calls for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to compile a list of certified devices, but the FirstNet lab is expected to conduct the testing, he said.

“We’ve actually worked and developed some processes with NIST to do that capability here in the lab at FirstNet and work with them to have them finalize that list, per their duties under that part of the law,” Bratcher said.