The First Responder Network Authority released its official request for proposals for the nationwide LTE network for public safety it is responsible for planning and building, and asked potential partners to respond by April 29.
The FirstNet RFP has been the organization’s major focus for more than a year, informed by outreach and discussions with the wireless industry and public safety stakeholders. Leading wireless operators have indicated varying levels of interest, with AT&T in particular on record as saying the carrier plans to pursue the opportunity “aggressively.”
FirstNet noted in the RFP it has taken an “objectives-based” approach in the RFP and outlined “high-level objectives with minimum requirements” that it wants to achieve, instead of what it called the “traditional requirements-driven model.” It did so in order to allow respondents to the RFP to define technical implementation details, so long as solutions meet Firstnet’s requirements for nationwide interoperability – or, “to provide industry the maximum opportunity and flexibility in the development of innovative solutions for the [network],” as it was put in the RFP.
A few highlights from the FirstNet RFP:
- FirstNet seeks a “comprehensive network solution covering each of the 56 states and territories” and includes a core network, radio access network, backhaul, aggregation, the use of national transport and operation centers as well as “a device ecosystem; use of network infrastructure; deployable capabilities; use of operational and business support systems; an applications ecosystem; network services; and the integration, maintenance, operational services and ongoing evolution of these systems required to function fully as an operational wireless [3GPP] standards-based [LTE] network.”
- FirstNet is required to be financially sustainable, and in its public discussions has been mindful of both the value of its 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum as well as what first responders will be able and willing to pay for wireless services – states do, after all, have the option to opt out of FirstNet services. In the RFP, FirstNet said its arrangement with a vendor could include “in kind” or monetary value provided by the network partner for secondary use of network capacity, as well as the possibility of “various partnerships and business arrangements that monetize new public safety market offerings via devices, applications, and other value-added benefits and services that enhance the public safety user experience.”
- The network will provide reliable and prioritized use for public safety, while offering some national and local features for provisioning and other tasks. While being interoperable on a nationwide basis, the network must have “quality of service, priority usage and preemption. … In addition, the [network] will be hardened, as needed, from the physical perspective and will be resilient, secure and highly reliable from the network perspective. Furthermore, the [network] will provide to public safety agencies both national and local control over prioritization, preemption, provisioning and reporting.”
- The network and devices will be branded as FirstNet, with FirstNet maintaining oversight, but the contractor will be responsible for marketing, product management, sales and distribution, customer care, and network deployment, operation and evolution.