FirstNet: Progress on pilot project negotiations


FirstNet is making progress in its negotiations with seven public safety pilot projects that are to be folded in under the umbrella of its future national first-responder LTE network.

The recipients of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grants had their funding partially suspended when the FirstNet board was created, to ensure a blank slate for the national network. But FirstNet board member Sue Swenson was tasked with negotiating use of FirstNet’s 700 MHz spectrum leases and plans for each network to eventually be subsumed by the larger, nationwide project.

The BTOP grantees include Adams County Communications Center (Colo.); the city of Charlotte (N.C.); the executive office of the state of Mississippi; the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority; Motorola Solutions Inc. (San Francisco Bay area); the New Jersey department of the treasury, and the New Mexico department of information technology.

“These jurisdictions and FirstNet’s team have had some very productive discussions on the draft framework for a lease agreement,” Swenson said. “After we receive the projects’ written feedback on the current draft, we will be in a position to move forward in earnest with more individualized negotiations.”

A representative from a similar Texas project that has been granted special temporary authority to operate in the 700 Mhz bands, but is not a BTOP grantee, has also been participating as an observer, according to FirstNet.

Swenson has been informally working with the grantees, and each jurisdiction has identified a lead negotiator, as well as a coordinator for the group to ensure good communication.

Swenson said that although the board wants a common set of terms and conditions for BTOP grantees, “there are likely to be differences in some terms in the final lease agreements given the fact that the projects are at different stages of maturity,” and the board’s willingness to allow special conditions in order to test project features like rural or wide-area deployments, in-building coverage, or other aspects that would provide valuable information for the design of the full network.

FirstNet recently announced that the board has selected a general manager for the network, but the board has yet to release his or her name pending the official hiring.

Read more about another 700 MHz public safety network program in Hawaii in 2011-2012 here. 

About Author

Kelly Hill

Editor, Big Data, Analytics, Test & Measurement
Kelly Hill currently reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr