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Multi-State Communications Networks - The purpose of this forum is for discussion of trunked or conventional communications networks that span more than one state. They are local government or commercial in nature. For Federal or Military use the appropriate Topic Specific forum.

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Old 12-29-2017, 5:12 PM
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Default AT&Tís $40 billion emergency response network FirstNet

Check This Story Out From Tech Crunch

https://techcrunch.com/2017/12/29/al...work-firstnet/
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Old 12-30-2017, 10:40 AM
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What do they intend to do with this?

Might work in cities but it would take much to cover vast rural areas with rough terrain.
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Old 12-30-2017, 10:46 AM
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Good concise article. The last paragraph says it all. But other paragraphs are interesting as well - specifically how this was proposed 15 years ago and how technology has evolved since then.

Hard for states to not "opt in" when you are put over a barrel with an ultimatum.
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Old 12-30-2017, 10:59 AM
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Coverage is there day one if there is already AT&T LTE coverage in any particular spot (which I realize is not everywhere, but it's still better than starting from scratch). One of the powerful pieces of FirstNet is that first responders will have priority access to cellular...including data. So after an earthquake, when everyone is on their cell phones and it slows to a halt, public safety will still have unaffected fast throughput. Same goes for at a fair, concert, wherever there are lots of people all Facebook Live streaming. PS users will not have to worry and can still use MDTs, preplan apps, weather data, security camera streaming, etc.

FirstNet (the govt office) got $7B from other Spectrum auctions. A big chunk went to AT&T as part of the contract, along with LTE Band 14. In return, AT&T has to run the network for 20 years and basically pay FirstNet (the gov office) back.
Essentially AT&T gets the benefit of 20 MHz of Spectrum, some capital and possible user base, in exchange for dedicating part of their network to public safety and hardening what they have.

Nobody is required to subscribe, so public safety can stay with Verizon or whoever (or nobody if they don't want cellular data). Just because a state opts in, they don't have to pay anything, subscribe, or use it. The opt-in just meant they didn't want to build it themselves.
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Old 12-30-2017, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by troymail View Post
Good concise article. The last paragraph says it all. But other paragraphs are interesting as well - specifically how this was proposed 15 years ago and how technology has evolved since then..
I disagree. The quoting of the Steve Brill article is out of date now. A lot has happened since then.
And FirstNet, while an idea that has been around for a while, is being built on 4G LTE standards...current technology. With an upgrade path to 5G. It's the same technology as the AT&T commercial network, so FirstNet will by necessity keep pace with commercial.
And I disagree with the last sentence in the techcrunch article. As I mentioned in my other post, cellular networks are very vulnerable to loading or weather outages. Priority and hardening is needed.
I fully agree that VOICE LMR networks are very good, and very realiable.. but they are voice networks....and this is a data network.
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Old 12-30-2017, 11:14 AM
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Some excellent points are raised in the comments as well. It has to be one of the worst thought out "plans" ever. I believe that it's nothing more than a greedy cash cow created solely for AT&T's benefit.
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Old 12-30-2017, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Thunderknight View Post
Nobody is required to subscribe, so public safety can stay with Verizon or whoever (or nobody if they don't want cellular data). Just because a state opts in, they don't have to pay anything, subscribe, or use it. The opt-in just meant they didn't want to build it themselves.
Are you sure about that? From what I've read everyone must subscribe.
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Interesting point to note is that First Net is a "Subscription Service". Cities, Counties, States, and even the Feds, will have to pay an annual subscription fee to AT & T to receive full benefit of the First Net Network. I have to say, that the federal legislation is written in a way, that actually leaves no financially viable alternative to states. Thats why all 50 states and all the territories, signed on with First Net. They didn't sign on because they liked the program, they are mandated to provide the service, either through AT & T, or build their own from scratch, on whatever frequency they get from the FCC with "statewide" availability. (pretty much impossible)
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Old 12-30-2017, 12:16 PM
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Are you sure about that? From what I've read everyone must subscribe.
No. There is no requirement that everyone must subscribe.
Since many agencies are already using commercial cellular for part of their operations, there will be a lot of incentive to subscribe. The pre-emption will make that very attractive. Lower contracted rates will probably be slightly better than what agencies get on their consumer plans.

Each agency gets to decide if they want to subscribe to the service. I'm going through this now with our police department. Likely we will since we are already running cellular for mobile data terminals. Switching the plans over to FirstNet will give us the preemption that will make life a bit easier.
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Old 12-30-2017, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by N4GIX View Post
Some excellent points are raised in the comments as well. It has to be one of the worst thought out "plans" ever. I believe that it's nothing more than a greedy cash cow created solely for AT&T's benefit.
It was put out to bid and AT&T was not the only bidder. Verizon was working on it, but backed out at the last minute. Rivada, a conglomeration of several large companies like Harris, Ericsson, Black & Veatch, Nokia, Fujitsu, etc. also bid.

Certainly could have been fixed so AT&T got it, but these sorts of things are usually under a lot of scrutiny and I'm sure someone would have raised questions by now.
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Old 12-30-2017, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by N4GIX View Post
Are you sure about that? From what I've read everyone must subscribe.

"Interesting point to note is that First Net is a "Subscription Service". Cities, Counties, States, and even the Feds, will have to pay an annual subscription fee to AT & T to receive full benefit of the First Net Network. I have to say, that the federal legislation is written in a way, that actually leaves no financially viable alternative to states. Thats why all 50 states and all the territories, signed on with First Net. They didn't sign on because they liked the program, they are mandated to provide the service, either through AT & T, or build their own from scratch, on whatever frequency they get from the FCC with "statewide" availability. (pretty much impossible)"
Not sure where that quote came from, but it has a number of errors in it.
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Old 12-30-2017, 12:46 PM
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No. There is no requirement that everyone must subscribe.
Thank you for the correction. I still have some concern about the reliability of the system when it comes to coping with disaster situations such as the extensive destruction of the cellular infrastructure caused by the wildfires in California and adjacent states.

For that matter, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters present the potential risk of communications collapse as well. Will AT&T provide rapidly deployable portable systems to maintain network integrity?
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Old 12-30-2017, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by mmckenna View Post
Not sure where that quote came from, but it has a number of errors in it.
Some facts:
1) No agency is required to subscribe (at least not by the Federal gov't or AT&T; I suppose some state could make their own mandate).
2) It was true that FirstNet will be every state...that's because it was designed as a nationwide network...it would have been less useful it there were huge gaps, with some states having it and some not. If a state opted in, it would run by AT&T and the state is not obligated to anything. If they chose to opt-out, they would have to do it themselves and tie to the nationwide network. No isolated networks, no big gaps (coverage is separate issue).
3) If a State had opted-out, they would have applied to build it on Band 14 in their entire state. It would have actually been a spectrum lease from FirstNet. They would not have to find spectrum themselves. Again, if it was not on the same band as the rest of the nation, it defeats the nationwide purpose.
4) There will be no sudden impact on LMR, P25 or scanner users.
5) Verizon has come out and said they will offer priority to their public safety users (as a way to keep the business).
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Old 12-30-2017, 12:56 PM
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Having looked at the current AT&T LTE/4G/3G coverage, there are quite a few rather large holes in their coverage. If that means that they will have to plug these holes, then that's a good thing.
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Old 12-30-2017, 1:25 PM
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Originally Posted by N4GIX View Post
For that matter, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters present the potential risk of communications collapse as well. Will AT&T provide rapidly deployable portable systems to maintain network integrity?
That is a huge discussion point, and I agree.
Living in California, I've experienced what happens even in moderate earthquakes when cellular networks get overloaded. Because of my job, I have WPS on my cell phone, as well as everyone on my staff. It helps, but only if the cellular network is there. Having worked around many cell sites, I'm not impressed with the way AT&T maintains their own network. Most work is contracted out, which puts the reliability of the people in question. Lack of backup generators is a big issue. Battery backup is often lacking, either undersized, poorly maintained. Reliance on carrier circuits that can fail due to AT&T's own failing cable plants is an issue we've experienced. Back in 2008, a local fiber was cut and we lost most cellular service in our county for a day.
I'd never rely on cellular systems, as they stand, for anything safety related.
That's likely one of the reasons you won't hear FirstNet call it a public safety two way radio replacement for a long time to come.

There is talk of "hardening" the sites, but I'll believe that when it happens.

Also, with in-building coverage, DAS systems, etc. reliable coverage will always be a question.

If FirstNet does succeed in making all this work, and they somehow get AT&T to harden their sites, then this should be a good system. It will never been failure proof, that will always be an issue with any system, either AT&T, FirstNet or local agency owned systems. Actually, most public safety agencies don't do a great job of maintaining their own radio systems. Often it's a break/fix thing. At least having two separate systems might be a good thing.

Truth is, many public safety agencies are already heavily using cellular, for more "secure" type communications, and/or data. Hopefully FirstNet will improve this service.
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Old 12-30-2017, 1:33 PM
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Originally Posted by N4GIX View Post
Having looked at the current AT&T LTE/4G/3G coverage, there are quite a few rather large holes in their coverage. If that means that they will have to plug these holes, then that's a good thing.
Oh yeah, out west here, AT&T coverage is really lacking in rural and even some suburban areas. They've got a lot of work to do.

I've read that FirstNet requires AT&T to build out sites, but the specifics are not known. A lot of rural/wilderness type coverage will rely on other technologies. FirstNet is recommending in-vehicle solutions for mobile applications. External antennas, amplified boosters, etc. is one option.
Satellite based systems for larger on scene will be an option. Also Cell-on-Wheels will be an option. Not immediate solutions, but resources that can be put on scene as needed.

But, yeah, I agree, I'm skeptical of AT&T's ability to run this system reliably. Supposedly there are performance/uptime requirements, but I'm not aware of what those are yet.
As I look at FirstNet for our PD, I'm also working on a complete radio system upgrade, I'll never rely on FirstNet as our only form of communications.
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Old 12-30-2017, 1:54 PM
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In my opinion this FIRSTNET is a boondoggle. On top of this LMR has been given some damaging blows. First with mandatory narrowbanding. (Is anyone outside the major metro areas benefiting from that?) Secondly, agencies are resistant to LMR upgrades in anticipation of the FIRSTNET "Miracle" and the forcing of P25 upon agencies as the only digital option (federal grants) has created hugely complex and fiscally unsustainable networks. Not at all what P25 was intended to be, but look at the history of its slow and politically charged 20 year roll out. I don't expect anything better from FIRSTNET.
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Old 12-30-2017, 1:55 PM
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Originally Posted by mmckenna View Post
Oh yeah, out west here, AT&T coverage is really lacking in rural and even some suburban areas. They've got a lot of work to do.

I've read that FirstNet requires AT&T to build out sites, but the specifics are not known. A lot of rural/wilderness type coverage will rely on other technologies. FirstNet is recommending in-vehicle solutions for mobile applications. External antennas, amplified boosters, etc. is one option.
Satellite based systems for larger on scene will be an option. Also Cell-on-Wheels will be an option. Not immediate solutions, but resources that can be put on scene as needed.

But, yeah, I agree, I'm skeptical of AT&T's ability to run this system reliably. Supposedly there are performance/uptime requirements, but I'm not aware of what those are yet.
As I look at FirstNet for our PD, I'm also working on a complete radio system upgrade, I'll never rely on FirstNet as our only form of communications.
In the end it will be "best effort" in terms of performance, whatever that is. The solution is a hybrid radio/data terminal with conventional LMR and a 700 MHz data interface. Realistically, you are not going to get countrywide coverage on a smartphone device with internal antenna resistor.
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Old 12-30-2017, 5:50 PM
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In the end it will be "best effort" in terms of performance, whatever that is. The solution is a hybrid radio/data terminal with conventional LMR and a 700 MHz data interface. Realistically, you are not going to get countrywide coverage on a smartphone device with internal antenna resistor.
Yeah, I'm dealing with some of that in our own department.

Had our chief tell me that "we" were getting forced to 700MHz.
Was told we "had" to go to P25.
I think I've got out in front of the FirstNet thing, though.

P25 was a good idea, but the vendors were given too much control over it. Prices should have been driven down, but that failed.

The "good old boy" network kept prices high, and forced these systems down the departments throats.


But, there is no mandate that departments adopt FirstNet. What needs to happen is public safety agencies need to think carefully, but that isn't their strong point when it comes to technology. Not any offense to them, but as public safety, some of the technology requires knowledgeable people involved, and that doesn't always happen.

And, yeah, the coverage is going to be a disappointment. Probably always will be. Hopefully AT&T will get their arm twisted into doing this right, but I have low expectations for the Federal or State government to make that happen. AT&T will find a loophole.
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Old 12-30-2017, 6:29 PM
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In my opinion this FIRSTNET is a boondoggle.
I agree with you on this point, which is pretty much what I wrote in post #6 above.
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Old 12-30-2017, 6:35 PM
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FirstNet isnít completely un-proven. When Texas opted-in, Band 14 sites in Harris county (Houston) went live and held during Hurricane Harvey.

Now has AT&T bitten off more than they can likely chewÖyes. Their existing coverage isnít the best and they are very bad about only providing coverage where it is profitable. Example, I-40 between Amarillo and Albuquerque where you get more than a mile off the interstate and coverage goes to hopes and dreams (used to not even have 3G on a good portion of that corridor but I havenít driven that in 4 years).

Other great examples are in the oil fields of Texas and New Mexico and the I-10 corridor between Ft Stockton and JunctionÖthey only cover areas with population density high enough to justify infrastructure.

I donít think it currently really affects LMR. Itís a data network, not a voice network (and PTToLTE has already proven to have issues in primary communications). Only real thing it affected is Motorola did away with HPD on IV&D as LTE makes more sense.


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