FirstNet is Connecting More First Responders Across South Carolina [telecom]

There are some things that mortal men are not supposed to know, and this web page has a breezy, lightweight, breathless explanation of one of them - how our government, having allowed our "public utilities" to sabotage a reliable communications network that was working fine for

146 years, has now decided to use our tax money to achieve a goal that I didn't know existed and still can hardly believe was ever consideed viable - constructing another cellular network in parallel with the ever-more-expensive, overly complicated, incredibly delicate network of eyesores that ruin our landscape, turn our church steeples into plastic monuments to mamon, and cause a generation of children to become soulless automatons, unable to relate to other people inches away from them, as they frantically flip through page after page after page of images showing endless clones of a blow-dried-airhead telling them to buy a new product while simpering and preening and trying harder to look like whatever flavor of sincere is Firstnet-fashionable.

Perhaps you will be able to make more sense out of it. My circuit breaker has tripped.


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"An official website of the United States government"

What's the news? AT&T is America's public safety communications partner. In the nearly 5 years since we were selected by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) to build and operate FirstNet(r), we have moved quickly to bring more coverage, boost capacity and drive new capabilities for South Carolina first responders and the communities they serve - rural or urban.

Today, we cover nearly all of the state with FirstNet, Built with AT&T

- helping to connect public safety agencies and organizations in more than 150 communities across South Carolina. That's why we're focused on increasing network capacity for South Carolina public safety by deploying Band 14 spectrum - nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the federal government specifically for FirstNet. We've rolled out Band 14 on over 1,000 sites across the state to provide public safety with truly dedicated coverage and capacity when they need it.

In addition, more South Carolina first responders are gaining access to a one-of-a-kind 5G experience on FirstNet. 5G connectivity on FirstNet is now available in Charleston and Hilton Head.

And we aren't stopping there. The FCC estimates that over 10,000 lives could be saved each year if public safety were able to reach callers just 1 minute faster. And since 80% of wireless calls take place indoors, in-building dedicated public safety connectivity is essential to public safety operations and overall safety. That's why we are collaborating with Safer Building Coalition, the nation's leading industry advocacy group focused on advancing policies, ideas, and technologies that ensure effective in-building communications capabilities for public safety personnel and the people they serve.

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Reply to
Bill Horne
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I'm not exactly an uncritical fan of FirstNet, having been fairly close to the process that created it, and having worked with real public safety communications. There was a real mess in the 2005-2009 time frame, not worth recounting here, and it basically ended with AT&T picking up the pieces. But the idea is not bad and it could be useful.

FirstNet is a "broadband" public safety network intended to complement the "narrowband" voice walkie-talkie systems that first responders (police, fire, EMS) typically carry. It's basically a 700 MHz LTE network, where the 700 MHz band has good indoor and cluttered-area coverage. The idea is that AT&T gets to use the spectrum for commercial (cellular) customers, but reserves and prioritizes its use for first responders when they need it. FirstNet's customers, the first responders, pay for the service, which allows them to download images and video, which could help them in their front line work.

Not all first responders buy into this; real-world police in many places, for instance, carry ordinary smartphones, which generally work fine. But in some places where cell coverage is spotty, FirstNet gives AT&T an incentive to build out, and it gives local governments an incentive to permit the necessary towers to be built. Whether that's good or bad is a matter of perspective...

Reply to
Fred Goldstein

One of the things that happens when I take a vacation from the Digest is that I come back to work with "new eyes" - I notice things that weren't grabbing my attention before, and I've just realized that I don't know as much about radio and Cellular technology as I had thought I did.

Ergo, I'll ask you to give us more detail about the underlying technology behind FIrstNet(R), and to explain some of the acronyms that have been mentioned. I hate to do it, but I'll (respectfully) request an "Executive Overview" that gives a layman's view of the possibilities and problems.

OK, here's my first double-take: my only experience with two-way radio technology, outside Amateur radio, was fixing the radios in the snow plows and staff cars used by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, back in 1972. At that time, "Narrowband" was what we called FM two-way radios that were set for plus-and-minus 5KHz deviation. However, I've been told that "Narrowband" now refers to radio transmitters using plus-and-minus 2.5KHz deviation, and "Wideband" is the older +/- 5KHz system.

Pleae tell us if I'm right, and what that change did to increase the available bandwidth in the bands used by First Responders, and why FirstNet is considered "Wideband."

IIRC, 700 MHz was the range used for "trunked" two-way push-to-talk systems: I thought it was still being used for that. Correct me if I'm wrong, though: didn't T-Mobile have it's "Push-To_Talk" service in that band as well?

And, Ghod forgive me, I have to ask what "LTE" means in this context. Trunked radio systems are now decades old, so if that's what AT&T is calling "Long Term Evolution," well, I want my tax money back.

Let's pull over into the learning lane for a moment, and I'll ask a few questions I hope will clarify what is going on.

  1. Is FirstNet(R) a service that uses single-channel radios, like the ones that Police used to have for their exclusive use, or is it for "trunked" radios like the ones taxicabs, courier services, and delivery trucks use now? Some Police and Fire departments have switched to "trunked" systems, because some municipalities have combined all their departments onto a single "trunked" system in an effort to save money.
  2. If FirstNet is a "Wideband" service that allows First Responders to "download images and video," how can it be shared with older "narrowband" Release-To-Listen users? Are there multiple systems with different capabilities sharing the FirstNet band(s)?
  3. Unless I misunderstand the FirstNet PR, the system is equipped to allow First Responders to interrupt existing "other" users when First Responders make a call. Is that correct? Is there any public info you can point us to?

Thanks for your help. I'm sorry to have to ask what are probably very basic questions to you, but I need to have a common basis of under- standing if the Digest is to have cogent threads about issues and systems such as FirstNet.


Reply to
Telecom Digest Moderator


Here is an unrestricted older briefing on FirstNet:

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Also interesting when State of Florida rebid their Public Safety radio network they required the radios to be LTE interoperable. In the event of a hurricane that takes out their P25 infrastructure, or a massive local need that exceeds bandwidth, they can switch radios over to LTE (presumingly FirstNet)

Having said that you don't see a lot of "walkie talkie" users on first net. It's mostly cell phones, tablets, Mobile routers, EKGs, MDTs, Liscense Plate readers, etc. FAA has put a few weather sensors on first net (as TDM transport becomes obsolete, and they don't need a 3 Mbps carrier Ethernet circuit for 100 bps of data). There is an app called Tango Tango that simulcasts Land Mobile Radio over LTE- basically allows public safety command staff and volunteer firefighter to monitor a frequency without having to lug a radio with them. They obviously advertise it's not safety critical, the idea is when they respond they will switch over to a standard radio, but they can maintain situational awareness or be contacted through the app. I've played with it- and it appears to work well in either use.

Reply to
John Doe

BTW on the GETS thing- It was fairly well described by NCS (National Communications System) before they became part of DHS, now its under CISA. It's essentially a phone credit card. You dial a 10 digit number starting with 710 (That has been discussed in the Digest a long time ago- apparently the reserved NPA got a lot of people interested) and then are given the opportunity to enter your PIN- once you authenticate, you have priority routing over the switched network. There are also 1-800 access number available. In the previous decade it worked very well- you obviously have to have dialtone first. The federal government pays for the system and sponsors are sent bills for the usage. Users are government employees (ranging from Wage Grade to Cabinet Officials), certain scientific and technical personnel, contractors, and critical infrastructure/industry users sponsored by the state or federal government. You are encouraged to test it annually. Now with call transport moving to VoIP, and huge moves from POTS to VoIP and LTE, I'd think it is of limited benefit now- But I don't really have much recent knowledge. You could use it on top of Firstnet to ensure routing once you get off the enhanced packet core.

WPS is a code you dial (*XXX) before each call to get your subscribed cell phone priority service. Also run by CISA, and works across the major carriers in the 50 states . With Verizon's first responder network and FirstNet, I'd think it would mostly be useful for T Mobile or local provider users. I know GCI in Alaska doesn't support it as of 18 months ago. WPS has an internal priority unlike GETS. Whitehouse at the top, [ordinary people] at the bottom.

There is an app, of course, that will do this dialing for you for either system.

Reply to
John Doe

Thanks for that: I put it on the T-D website.

Kudos to Florida: I just hope that the hurricane/flood/whatever doesn't take down the FirstNet sites at the same time it's destroying ordinary cell towers.

Whoa! Have mercy! I'm an analog tech in a digital world! What are "EKGs?" What are "MDTs?"

At that rate, the Morse keys and sounders in the Gamewell boxes might still come in handy! ;-)

I'll take your word for it: I try to minimize the number of apps on my "smart" phone, and I'm not young enough to be a First Responder anyway.

Thanks for your help, insight, and the PowerPoint overview.


Reply to
Telecom Digest Moderator

My memory was usage up to $X/month was free for the user; the (astute) intent was to keep it (and the card holder) tested regularly.

| Also interesting when State of Florida rebid their Public Safety radio | network they required the radios to be LTE interoperable. In the | event of a hurricane that takes out their P25 infrastructure, or a | massive local need that exceeds bandwidth, they can switch radios over | to LTE (presumingly FirstNet)

I'd bet dollars to donuts that FirstNet cell sites are ordinary site and vice versa. All it takes is software to put FN users at the head of the line. Do note that for all the flagwaving and cheering by FirstNet recipients, the FCC has not mandated backup power at cell sites.

Electrocardiogram: What the TV ER docs/paramedics look at before using the defibrillator.

Mobile Data Terminal is the computer in the cop car used to look up your license plate before being arrested for having an air freshener hanging from your mirror.

And maybe more dependable....

Reply to
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