States considering opting out of the FirstNet nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) and building their own interoperable Radio Access Network (RAM) face an expensive, time-consuming and complex process that comes with a tight deadline.
To support those states, the First Responder Network Authority is developing an interoperability compliance matrix that will document the technical standards, key data elements and network policies that states must meet to ensure their RAN is interoperable with the NPSBN. FirstNet previewed that guidance in a recent blog.
FirstNet is also working with the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ensure they have the necessary information to assess and approve state RAN plans.
To receive approval from the FCC, states and territories must make sure their RAN is compliant with the technical requirements from the Interoperability Board report and interoperable with the NPSBN.
After FCC approval, a state must apply to the NTIA to lease spectrum capacity from FirstNet for its RAN, and if needed, request a grant to help with funding. NTIA requires that states show they have the technical capabilities to operate and maintain the RAN and that their alternative plans are cost effective and have similar timelines, security, coverage and quality of service to that of FirstNet.
Because FirstNet is aware of the requirements and complexities of developing a RAN within the law’s narrow timeline to submit an alternative plan, it will provide additional support throughout the process. State officials recently voiced concerns about FirstNet implementation at a Senate oversight hearing.
Working with its network partner — which is expected to be chosen late this year — FirstNet plans to finalize the details of the matrix that will outline the technical standards and network policies needed to connect any state-built RAN to the NPSBN.
The FCC and NTIA will also provide more guidance to states and territories about their respective roles in the compliance and approval processes.