Emergency Communications

FirstNet, DHS P25 comms efforts move ahead

Two efforts aimed at providing interoperable radio communications for first responders across the nation, advanced on Dec. 9.

The public/private effort to establish a dedicated nationwide wireless communications system took a step forward on Dec. 9 when the First Responder Network Authority board of directors approved a request for proposals to create and deploy a nationwide public safety broadband network.

The group said it expects to release the RFP in January, although it did not specify a date.

FirstNet will be a wireless broadband LTE network that operates on 700 MHz spectrum and is dedicated to emergency responders nationwide.

According to a statement released on Dec. 9, the board's approval for the RFP keeps its strategic roadmap on track.

"This is a landmark day for FirstNet and public safety," FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson said in the statement. "By approving the RFP, the board has taken a major step forward to deliver a mission-critical network that first responders deserve."

The same day, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate announced the 10 members of the Advisory Panel for the Project 25 Compliance Assessment Program. DHS officials said the members, who were drawn from state and federal agencies, will help establish standards for interoperability among land mobile radio communications products.

The panel will provide the DHS Office for Interoperability and Compatibility with input on portable, handheld, and vehicle-mounted radios and infrastructure equipment from federal, state, local, tribal and territorial perspectives.

Some experts regard radio gear and systems based on P25 standards as interim steps toward the national, interoperable communications network for first responders, which seeks to solve the problem of police, fire and other responders not being able to communicate with one another in an emergency.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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