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FirstNet – A Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) for ‘First Responders’.

After the 9/11 tragedy in the USA, American Congress held an enquiry and one of the results was that public safety agencies needed better and more interoperable communications systems. Over time, it was decided that there should be a Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) developed for use by ‘First responders’, and so FirstNet was created with the primary aim of it being a network designed specifically for first responders.

Some of the guiding principles will also apply to Australia, such as:

  • First responders must have both priority access and pre-emption as a standard feature
  • The network should be designed with similar reliability and coverage as existing radio communication networks
  • The network should be built in conjunction with a private industry partner, in a Public/Private partnership (PPP) to ensure the most efficient supply format
  • Costs to users should be no more than that charged to commercial users with comparable features

FirstNet at the early stages formed a Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) to both educate first responders on what was happening, as well as the more important role of developing the actual needs list from the prospective users:

  • Over time the network should be capable of providing both data and voice services
  • Overall, the PSBN should be designed and the feature sets developed by first responders.

We are still working our way towards our own PSMB in Australia. Working groups have access to information from FirstNet, as well as the UK and South Korean systems, however, there needs to be much better interface with those overseas networks, as well as a much higher level of involvement from local Public Safety Agencies (PSA’s).

Until now, most of the discussions in Australia has revolved around the Telstra LANES product, designed with PSA’s in mind and offering many advantages. The concern ARCIA has is that there has not been any formal development of the requirements from PSA’s and that it tends to be quoted at price indications well above commercial rates

Whilst we applaud the Commonwealth and State Governments for at least getting things moving through CoAG, we believe more needs to be done and an Australian version of the FirstNet PSAC should be formed immediately with the support of Government and relevant working groups.