IoT Blog
IoT Blog

Preparing Public Safety Infrastructure for the Transition to FirstNet

by Benoit Tournier, Director of Marketing, Transportation
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet™)—an independent federal authority that was formed in 2012—is changing the way we think about public safety infrastructure in the United States. The Authority will establish a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) and, to be compliant, every state and territory will need interoperable with the NPSBN core network and Radio Access Network (RAN). How should public safety agencies prepare for this significant change in their communications infrastructure? 

The 50 states and three territories which opted-in to FirstNet will receive some resources from FirstNet to help deploy the new system. With work to deploy RANs beginning early this year, you should start looking at infrastructure options now to ensure a smooth, streamlined transition process. 

FirstNet AT&T Webinar

FirstNet States Receive Full-Service Systems 

The primary goal of the FirstNet core network standard is to bring every state up-to-date with emerging technology, resulting in more efficient public safety systems that can reach more people in need. This includes creating a core network that offers at least 97 percent coverage in each state or territory, 40,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to support emergency responders and satellite and deployable coverage with at least 99 percent reach. In addition to coverage requirements, states will also need to have in-building solutions for additional support, such as access to AT&T assets in large stadiums. 

States will get the benefit of having a system that has been built, deployed and maintained by FirstNet. The agency handles most of the key components related to the transition, including network maintenance, available staff to answer customer requests and customer-deployable assets. These support features, combined with cybersecurity, an app store, a public safety homepage, ICAM support (Identity, Credential, and Access Management) and complete local control of the core network, make the FirstNet transition a relatively simple process. In addition to these services, FirstNet can also offer rates at or sometimes below existing commercial pricing, and states can choose among a variety of contracts. 

Sierra Wireless Tools That Support FirstNet Requirements 

Having the right tools and services can make the transition to FirstNet a simple one. Consider how you’re going to make the switch now, before FirstNet’s anticipated compliance deadline of March 2018, so that your infrastructure and user equipment is fully prepared for the transition. To start, FirstNet requires that all public safety user equipment (UE) and devices are compatible with the new dedicated cellular network. Sierra Wireless offers a variety of FirstNet ready cellular LTE gateways and routers to provide mission-critical network connectivity for vehicle and fixed locations. Sierra Wireless routers and gateways are just one component of Sierra’s end-to-end AirLink networking solution, which includes full network management and device-to-enterprise security. Emergency services agencies in areas like Chester County, Pennsylvania, have already started deploying our FirstNet-ready solutions, allowing them to have a truly mobile network that supports the needs of both first responders and dispatchers. By integrating these tools now, you not only begin to meet FirstNet standards, but you can also future-proof your system so that it evolves with new advances in technology.

Start with Sierra today to find out more about what your agency can do to prepare for the new FirstNet core network standards. For more information, you can also watch our webinar, Transforming Public Safety Communications with a FirstNet-Ready Solution, about the FirstNet transition process and emergency services communications.