FirstNet discusses future of BTOP-grant recipients
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FirstNet learns during visits to BTOP cities
Other key planning aspects that could impact the buildout of the nationwide LTE network were highlighted during the visits with Charlotte, Mississippi and Adams County, Colo., Reynolds said.
In Charlotte, the 39 sites in the LTE network feature towers built to public-safety specifications for resiliency in TIA-222-G, which is designed to let towers withstands winds of 150 miles per hour, while commercial towers typically are designed to withstand winds of 75 miles per hour to 120 miles per hour, Reynolds said.
“The cost to build a tower of that strength or the cost of retrofitting one that’s existing to meet that standard can be sizeable,” Reynolds said. “So, that is an issue we have to deal with around the country as we look at deploying the FirstNet network.
“Another aspect is that government funds cannot be used to strengthen a commercial tower unless the government has a security interest in it, and those tower companies — American Tower, Crown, etc. — are not going to want to do that. So, we’re going to have to find another way to have the tower owner strengthen it and maybe raise the rent or something like that, but it’s an issue we have to deal with that does add cost to the deployment of this network.”
All three entities expressed a desire for a more mature market for Band 14 devices, with both Mississippi and Adams County emphasizing the importance of having higher-powered mobile solutions to address coverage challenges, particularly in rural areas, Reynolds said.
One eye-opening discovery came in Charlotte, where officials said they are paying $30 for each Band 14 SIM card, instead of the $1 or less that SIM cards cost in the high-volume commercial wireless market, Reynolds said.
“I guess I would have expected that there would be some higher costs, given the lower volume (of Band 14 devices), but not $30,” Reynolds said, noting that he believes FirstNet can help address this problem in the future.
From a business-plan perspective, Reynolds said Charlotte has planned its network to offer service that will have a similar cost to the $39-per-month rate that public-safety entities currently pay for subscriptions to commercial wireless networks. FirstNet board members should keep the commercial options in mind when making pricing decisions regarding the nationwide LTE network, he said.
“[Charlotte officials] believe, and I would concur with this, that we can probably charge a slight incremental amount above $39 — it could be $5, or it could be $10 — because the FirstNet network will have things commercial networks do not have,” Reynolds said. “It will have a higher rate of resiliency, in terms of cell sites hardened. It will have higher throughput speeds and probably better coverage …
“There are a lot of features that they would have access to that they do not have today in the commercial world, but that does not double the cost-recovery amount that they would be willing to pay; it simply increases it by a small increment.”