POLICE Magazine

JUL 2017

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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32 POLICE JULY 2017 nications during not only major inci- dents but also during special events. On existing networks officers have to compete with all the other cell traffic trying to access the network. Which can be a problem. Ely Reyes, assistant chief of the Austin Police Department, says his officers have extensive experience with cellular communication issues at special events like the South by Southwest music festival and University of Texas football games. "When we have those large events, the cell network be- comes congested, and it's difficult to make calls or use data," he says. THE HOV LANE FirstNet is designed to let officers break through cellular gridlock by giving them usage priority and even letting them pre- empt access to the network by other cel- lular users. As first envisioned after the release of the 9/11 Commission Report, public safe- ty broadband was going to be a network where spectrum would be allocated for public safety use only. at proved im- practical. So the concept of priority and pre-emption was developed. What this means is that FirstNet pro- vider AT&T can use all of the spectrum it is acquiring through its agreement with FirstNet for commercial purposes until it is needed by public safety users. Chris Sambar, SVP for AT&T-FirstNet, says of- ficers should think of their access to First- decided by the governors. AT&T sub- mitted buildout plans to the governor of each state and territory last month. Now the governors have 45 days to re- view the plans and 90 days after that to decide to opt in or opt out. If a governor opts out of the AT&T plan, then the state or territory will have to build its own public safety broad- band network that's as robust or more ro- bust than the AT&T network as part of the nationwide mandate. If a state opts in to the FirstNet/AT&T plan then there is no cost to the state for building, operating, or maintaining the network. Sambar says the AT&T plan is "low risk" for states and territories, and they are not obligated to use it, once the system is built. "If we build it and they don't like it, they don't have to buy [the service]," he says. COSTS AND BENEFITS Once a governor agrees to AT&T's build- out plan, the company will begin offering FirstNet services in that state or territory. Individual public safety personnel will be allowed to subscribe to the service, as will agencies. "Price point and features for this service will be very attractive. is will be a very aggressively priced product," Sam- bar promises. AT&T believes in the near future a smartphone will be as essential to law enforcement operations as a patrol car, Net as an "HOV lane" for communications that gives them special access and prior- ity. "When first responders need it, they get immediate access, and it's all theirs," he says. Sambar adds that in a major emergency AT&T is willing to allocate all of its spectrum, not just 20MHz, for public safety priority use. Public safety professionals with access to FirstNet will use special SIM cards in their phones. ese cards will identify their calls as priority on the network and when necessary they will push other users off of the network to give the FirstNet user access. Sambar says in most cases other AT&T customers will not even notice they have been pre-empted. However, in a ma- jor incident scenario, some commercial customers may get bumped. e excep- tion to this is 911 calls, which will also have priority on the network. MOVING FORWARD Now that AT&T has signed on to build FirstNet, how it will be implemented in each of the 56 states and territories will be FirstNet is designed to let officers break through cellular gridlock by giving their usage priority. PHOTOS: FIRSTNET THE BROADBAND FUTURE

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