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Public Safety Radio Session Draws Keen Interest

HetNet Forum Panel Discussed How FirstNet Will Impact and Improve Existing and Future In-Building Public Safety Radio Systems

At the recent HetNet Expo held in Palm Beach Florida, there was great interest from the attendees about Public Safety Radio and the implications of FirstNet. Speaking to a well attended session, the panel had much to say about the future of all things Public safety.
The moderator kicked things off by telling the audience that as of 2016, there were 3,007 counties, 64 parishes, 18 organized boroughs, 11 census areas, 41 independent cities, and the District of Columbia for a total of 3,142 counties and county-equivalents in the United States. All of these counties/municipalities have well established and long standing networks of emergency repeater sites throughout their geographic boundaries. They are made up of strategically placed towers and antennas, much like cell sites, which enable voice communications via hand-held land mobile radios. These RF networks, in conjunction with 911 center based trunked computer systems that control them, are the primary voice communications for the county’s and state’s police, fire and emergency medical personnel. These systems are critically important as they are a life-line for our first responders.

He further explained that soon a Federal government initiative called FirstNet will overlay those, mostly 800 MHz networks, with a separate ‘cellular network’ that will augment the voice only capabilities with 4G LTE image/video producing data.
The panel spent the next hour discussing FirstNet’s roll-out and its impact on existing and future in-building first responder radio systems and how this new capability must be understood and accounted for to ensure the safety of people in commercial buildings, and also to help prepare developers and building owners for inevitable change. The panel of experts explained how FirstNet will augment well-established and reliable voice communications by enabling data intensive visual intelligence applications like indoor location tracking of people and things. The panel members made insightful comments on how FirstNet will give first responders much improved situational awareness leading to better outcomes during emergency events. They further explained and illustrated how all this will come together. The group spent more than the allotted time entertaining audience questions concerning the future of in-building public safety communications for commercial buildings both voice and data, and how these changes will affect all stakeholders.
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