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FirstNet and NG9-1-1: An Overview

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A report issued by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) provides an overview of two public safety communications networks now in development: the nationwide public safety broadband network being advanced by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1).

The FirstNet network will be a dedicated, nationwide wireless broadband platform that enables high-speed data exchange among first responders. In 2012, Congress authorized its development and allocated both $7 billion in funding and the 700MHz spectrum for its use.

Emergency response agencies long have recognized their communications systems lag far behind the capabilities of many consumer technologies. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a study to explore how current 911 services could be enhanced to support emergency communications in wireless-enabled environments. The study established the foundation for a network that will enable citizens not only to call 911 centers (also called Public Safety Answer Points, or PSAP) by voice, but also to send text, images and video from their mobile and networked devices. At the same time, PSAPs will be able to receive data from sophisticated sensors, wireless-enabled vehicles, second tier responders and other PSAPs and agencies. NG9-1-1 is the network architecture that will make this possible.

Because FirstNet and the NG9-1-1 share the goal of improving public safety communications through IP-based architecture, they are natural partners. While NG9-1-1 will enable PSAPs to receive more detailed information than ever before, the FirstNet network will enable those PSAPs to share the information with responders in the field and give responders the capability to share critical information among themselves. Many public safety practitioners anticipate these networks will dramatically enhance the speed, effectiveness and safety of response operations.

The report, FirstNet and Next Generation 9-1-1: High-Level Overview of Systems and Functionality, can be viewed online.