Michael Finneran
Michael F. Finneran, is President of dBrn Associates, Inc., a full service advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobility; services...
Read Full Bio >>

Michael Finneran | August 07, 2018 |


Wireless First Responder Net: Monopoly or Competition?

Wireless First Responder Net: Monopoly or Competition? While AT&T won the exclusive right to build FirstNet, the wireless broadband network for first responders, Verizon has its own idea.

While AT&T won the exclusive right to build FirstNet, the wireless broadband network for first responders, Verizon has its own idea.

While UC vendors are fumbling to achieve relevance in the mobile space, an important battle is heating up over the next generation of wireless technology for first responders. This noble objective is now coming into contact with the realities of business, and the two largest mobile operators, AT&T and Verizon, are locked in a battle that will define the shape of first responder communications for the coming decades.

This story began in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, when the U.S. government began looking at ways to improve wireless communications services for first responders. Under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Congress created the First Responder Network Authority (FRNA) to build and maintain an interoperable nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN).

Following a lengthy review process, in March 2017 the FRNA awarded the FirstNet network contract to AT&T, which will receive $7 billion and exclusive use of a valuable swath of frequency in the 700-MHz range called Band 14. In turn, AT&T pledged to invest $40 billion of its own money in the network over the 25-year life of the contract. The network will be available exclusively to first responders and other agencies (e.g., ambulance companies, hospitals, electric utilities, etc.) involved in responding to civil emergencies.

That would be the entire story except that Verizon, which claims to be the largest wireless provider for the public safety community, is proposing its own unnamed NPSBN offering to compete with FirstNet. Both sides are now settling into their positions to battle for this multibillion-dollar market.

AT&T: On the Run to Band 14
The biggest problem in building any wireless network of this scale is the radio access network (RAN). FirstNet requires every state to have a RAN that connects to the FirstNet core. AT&T will upgrade its RANs in the states that "opt in" to support FirstNet, leaving any state that wanted to opt out having to build its own public safety RAN supporting Band 14 connectivity. That need to build a statewide RAN pretty much assured that all 50 states would opt in, as they did -- by way of illustration, consider that the public cellular networks today use more than 200,000 towers to cover the U.S.

However, AT&T didn't actually need to build a public safety RAN; that would be crazy expensive. Rather, AT&T committed to upgrading its existing cell sites to support Band 14. That upgrade is underway, and AT&T has said it expects to have 12,000 to 15,000 sites equipped by the end of the year. That's still fewer than 10% of AT&T's cell sites.

The device industry is responding to the requirement by introducing Band 14-compatible devices. The FirstNet website lists Band 14-certified devices from Apple (iPads but not iPhones yet), Cradlepoint, Motorola Solutions, Samsung, and Sonim.

In normal operation, Band 14 will support public safety traffic along with traffic from the general public. However, using features inherent in the 3GPP cellular protocols, AT&T can effectively prioritize traffic from public safety users over regular network traffic. It has built a separate backbone, or Enhanced Packet Core (EPC), exclusively for first responder traffic while public traffic shares the RAN.

The unique feature of Band 14 is that in the event of a major emergency, public safety agencies can preempt public traffic on Band 14 and dedicate it exclusively to first responders. Regular network users can still make and receive calls and have access to other services, but not on Band 14. So while AT&T hasn't yet delivered on a nationwide Band 14 RAN, the guarantee of a dedicated public safety channel when needed is a big draw for FirstNet.

Continue to Page 2: Verizon's strategy, voice calling, and more


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.