FirstNet seeks comments on 10 RFIs by Aug. 30
Vendors, network operators and other potential partners to FirstNet will have an opportunity to provide input about the best approach to build and operate the radio-access network (RAN) and core network for the nationwide, first-responder broadband system by responding to 10 requests for information (RFIs) released yesterday.
During the past two months, FirstNet officials have conducted six regional meetings to gather input from states and territories representing the potential primary users. Last month, FirstNet met informally with several vendors during a conference hosted by the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program, but the RFIs represent the most significant formal outreach to vendors and other potential partners to date, according to FirstNet board member Jeff Johnson, who is leading FirstNet’s outreach efforts.
“We believe we started vendor communication at PSCR, and we’ll continue that through the RFI process,” Johnson said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “That’s our current path right now.”
Posted on www.fedbizopps.gov, the RFIs are expected to solicit responses—due on Aug. 30—that FirstNet can use to consider various options as it establishes the initial network design, deployment approach and business model. The first RFI on network partnering and RAN provisioning is particularly significant, because it likely will generate responses to address some of the financial challenges facing the FirstNet board.
“All possible models, partnership and technology platforms—regional and nationwide—will be considered,” the FirstNet press release states.
In addition, FirstNet yesterday released five RFIs to solicit information on the following topics: enhanced packet core (EPC), transmission/transport, data centers, network management center/operations management center (NMC/OMC), and the network service platform.
“These RFIs will enable FirstNet to gather input from equipment manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders on possible models and partnerships and technology platforms,” FirstNet General Manager Bill D’Agostino said in a prepared statement. “We need to hear about innovative, cost-effective solutions for delivering the coverage, capacity, connectivity, cybersecurity and resiliency that a high-speed network dedicated to public safety demands.”
These 10 RFIs follow a device RFI that FirstNet released issued in April. FirstNet officials also have announced an intention to release five other RFIs in the future, probably in the fall, according to FirstNet board member Craig Farrill, who also serves as the acting chief technology officer for FirstNet. Information gathered from the RFIs and other outreach efforts will be used to develop the nationwide system plan and to issue requests for proposal (RFPs), according to a FirstNet press release.
Farrill said the device RFI generated 54 responses, and the “creativity is quite amazing.” Similar responses from the 10 RFIs issued yesterday would be welcomed, he said.
“We’re just extremely excited about this milestone of getting these requests on the streets,” Farrill said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “The results we saw from the mobile-device [RFI] were very exciting, because there were more applications than we thought there would be and a lot more new ideas for public safety.
“We hope we see as many new innovative proposals from these RFIs for the core and the radio-access network, as well. We’re looking forward to dialoging with all of the folks who have ideas for us to hear.”