FirstNet – the nationwide public safety communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders, was created to provide emergency responders with a nationwide, high-speed, broadband mobile network dedicated to public safety. Being built with AT&T, in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), FirstNet is designed to improve communications among first responders. All 50 states and 6 territories have agreed to participate in the initiative.

This initiative also creates an incredible business opportunity for companies with the knowledge and expertise to create the robust, interoperable devices those agencies will use to communicate on this network. First responders are looking for devices that can straddle current communication protocols and are able to access Band 14

We are just now getting an understanding of the opportunities this new network has created for organizations that develop devices to meet the needs of first responders. However, we do know one thing for sure – reliable communication capabilities will be essential.

Organizations that are searching for an IoT module provider for their First Responder devices need to ensure that the vendor they choose can deliver connectivity and reliability. Additionally, it’s vital that the IoT module provider has a track record of success that they can independently verify.

Rugged. Reliable. Ready to Save Lives. Industrial grade cellular modules and datacards designed for public safety. Get a FREE Band-14 Project Review

What is the First Responder Network?

Prompted by the tragedy of 9/11, the FCC followed the 911 Commission’s recommendation to create a national public safety network in March 2010. In February 2012, First Responder Network Authority was authorized to develop and oversee the dedicated nationwide network for first responders.

The First Responder Network, is a dedicated broadband communications for U.S. first responders. This network prioritizes communication among first responders in a tiered strategy, ensuring that those responding to an emergency will have uninterrupted communications.

In March 2017, the contract was awarded to build out a first responder network leveraging 20MHz of government spectrum in the 700MHz band, known in the telecom industry as band 14. By December 2017, all U.S. States and territories had opted in to using the service.

This first responder network, which leverages the entire spread of deployed bands, in addition to Band 14, is planned to reach more than 99% of the U.S. population when completed. The First Responder Network will also be an integral part of AT&T’s rollout of 5G with a planned 500 total markets available by the end of 2018.

In-building solutions and other coverage enhancements will ensure constant communications to serve first responders.

Identified by their special subscription, the system puts first responders first in line. For instance, there will often be a traffic jam on the commercial LTE networks in the event of an emergency. However, functionality in the first responder network ensures first responders will always have priority for mission-critical communications through their priority features.

Communications for first responders, on all deployed cellular bands, will have priority for emergencies from any and all agencies who need to respond. Communication traffic can be further prioritized by bumping non-responder traffic as bandwidth in the commercial LTE network gets dynamically assigned to first responders. For example, in the case of a fire, fire departments and other responders would have priority, with other network traffic being bumped to a lower speed or service tier.

This dedicated LTE network will help overcome the inefficiencies of communication between the 10,000 separate, incompatible, and often proprietary radio networks currently used by first responders as they try to talk to each other and coordinate. With this initiative, there’s one dedicated nation-wide network for all first responders to use.

How First Responder Network Provides a Significant Market Opportunity

For organizations that develop communication devices, the First Responder Network presents an attractive and exciting market opportunity. First responders at the national, state, and local level will all need devices and equipment that can access these special service.

Instead of a private radio network for municipalities, a dual carrier solution is possible. Regardless of where in the country first responders are located, they are going to have coverage. This makes it essential for first providers to have devices with the ability to access Band 14 and commercial LTE bands for priority and preemption.

The road map for the First Responder Network includes mission-critical push-to-talk; voice, data, text, and video; and broadcast technology and z-Axis location-based services. At the core of these communication solutions will be modules and data cards robust and reliable enough to meet these needs.

4 Core Elements of Choosing an IoT Partner for First Responder Devices

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that are preparing to take advantage of the first responder network capabilities need to think carefully about the solutions they choose when developing their devices and applications. Here are the four core elements that equipment manufacturers must consider when choosing an IoT partner for First Responder communication solutions:

1. Reliability

For consumers, it can be disruptive when a call drops or Internet connection is lost. The stakes are quite a bit higher for first responders. On the network side, first responder services require 99.99% broadband service availability. And any service outage should be restored rapidly. Additionally, the device itself needs to perform optimally. First responders need all their equipment to be reliable, which means the external product needs to be ruggedized and what’s inside needs to be robust as well.

Look for rugged cellular modules and cards that can operate across a variety of stop/start environments. All Telit cellular modules, including the band-14 products boast industrial-grade environmental operating temperature ranges of -40 to +85 C and are manufactured for high shock and vibration environments.

When developing First Responder solutions, OEMs need to choose modules that are not only built to withstand a variety of environments but also provide reliable speed for mission critical communications. Reliable speed matters not just for voice, but also for video and images, which can be an essential part of first responder communications. For example, imagine the police need to obtain a photo of a suspect that’s engaged in a hostage situation. If the image takes too long to arrive, the criminal may be able to slip away before the police can apprehend him.

2. Focus on Quaity

Everyone knows the expression “you get what you pay for.” When working with a limited budget, it’s easy to understand the allure of cheap or even less expensive modules.

But at what cost?

What happens when you lose contact with your firefighting team because the cellular module in their equipment literally couldn’t stand the heat?

Though the less expensive module option can look enticing when it comes to your bottom line, it is not the best option, especially when the cheaper module is unable to perform on the front lines.

As a long-standing supplier to the automotive and other quality gated supply chains, Telit is equipped to handle quality audits across all its departments upon request. And we do urge you to make that request when selecting a vendor for your mission-critical communication devices. (Start your quality review here.) We are happy to help you parameterize your quality evaluation criteria for the most critical component in your cellular first responder product: the cellular module.

3. Future Proof Your Products

This year begins the roll out of the band 14 network. As it rolls out across the country, first responders can also use existing bands on a priority basis. That means that equipment today must work with both existing bands and Band 14. OEMs need to design First Responder solutions with current and future capabilities in mind – including the form factor of the card.

Of course, any data card designed for use on cellular first responder network products and devices must support band 14. The more bands a data card supports, the fewer design tweaks OEMs will have to make to accommodate multiple cards. One card can be used in multiple products, allowing faster time to market by standardizing.

It’s going to take time for the infrastructure to be built out everywhere. A card compatible with existing networks and well aligned with 5G is significantly valuable for the longevity of first responder products. The ability to support multiple carriers as responders move in and out of coverage areas as the infrastructure is built will also be crucial. Telit’s LM960 card supports band 14 and is fully interchangeable with Telit’s LM940 card.

4. Research and Track Record

When it comes to developing First Responder devices, lives may depend on OEMs making the right choice for modules. Experienced engineers with decades of experience know how to create modules that work. Equipment manufacturers need to choose a module provider with a track record and proven ability to create robust, long-lived products that you can verify with all mobile networks across America.

Additionally, organizations should look for a technology partner that’s dedicated to building “what’s next.” At some point, 5G will be superseded by an even faster network. Even though 5G won’t fully penetrate markets until 2020, telecom companies are already researching “6G.” Module developers need to constantly look forward to these needs while continuing to innovate to meet the needs of currently available networks. A provider that is consistently testing its modules with telecom providers ensures that your product will always be able to connect.

With 10 research and development centers and 600 engineers, Telit is focused on continual improvements. We exist to connect things – even critically important things. That’s all we do. We are in the lab and in the field, constantly testing and upgrading our ability to connect any device, anywhere.

Telit – Because It's What's Inside That Counts

For OEMs looking to design fully band-14 capable solutions (modems, etc.), selecting the right data card or cellular module is the difference between successfully penetrating a new market or watching the competition take market share away.

There are two types of cellular communication modules that integrators can design their devices with: data cards like the mini-PCIe and NGFF M.2 PC industry form factor standards and direct solderable form factors typically utilizing a land-grid array (LGA), which allows modules to be mounted onto the public safety devices by automated manufacturing systems.

Telit’s new mPCIe LM960 is the first data card capable of 1GB plus speeds over LTE. It’s also the first product in industry in the mPCIe form factor to support Cat 18. The rugged LM960 delivers significant flexibility and a competitive edge for original equipment manufacturers looking to quickly deploy next generation products delivering carrier broadband-like user experience.

The new LM960 is a sibling product of the Cat 11 LM940 and the two products are fully interchangeable. 

This provides OEMs the opportunity to create new products based on designs already using the LM940, or to create product families in different grades of performance based either on the LM960 for high end, or the LM940 for mid-market.

The Telit band-14 equipped LE910C4-NF LTE Cat 4 and LE910C1-NF LTE Cat 1 are LGA modules designed with public safety and first responder network needs in mind. Because they are direct solderable, they require less space and form a more physically robust bond with the public safety device that they equip, delivering more shock and vibration resistance. The Cat 4 module delivers 150Mbps and the Cat 1, 10 Mbps for download speeds.

As the LTE standard evolves and matures, router and gateway OEMs can leverage this technology not only for high download bandwidth and near instant network response times but also for solid upload speeds and reliability as applications like high definition video streaming, digital signage, all-cellular commercial and enterprise Internet and software defined wide area network (SD-WAN) access become increasingly more sophisticated.

About Telit – We Connect the World's Data

Telit offers the world’s most comprehensive portfolio of high-performance IoT modules, connectivity services, and software. Our innovative spirit, decades of experience, deep industry insights, and unmatched IoT technology expertise is the foundation of everything we do.

We help customers and partners who require best-in-class performance with our uncompromising engineering practices and design methodologies that exceed stringent environmental requirements and industry standards. Our IoT experts have pioneered a successful end-to-end system approach that assures that all the pieces work together seamlessly when connecting “things to apps” – from device management to connectivity and data management and everything in between.

Rugged. Reliable. Ready to Save Lives. Industrial grade cellular modules and datacards designed for public safety. Get a FREE Band-14 Project Review