Public Safety communications is changing. First responders and other emergency personnel are becoming more reliant on data to do their jobs protecting life and property. In the past 10 years alone, public safety has seen a proliferation of wireless broadband adoption and a tremendous increase in software, devices, and information available to make their operations more effective and efficient.
The Wireless Broadband Program aims to leverage these existing and future capabilities to benefit emergency communications and guide statewide initiatives to make public safety data communication ubiquitous, efficient, and interoperable. Our goal is to enable emergency response personnel to access the right information, at the right time, and wherever the information is needed.
Wireless Broadband and Applications Committee
The ECN Wireless Broadband Program works closely with the Statewide Emergency Communications Board’s Wireless Broadband and Applications Committee, which represents the stakeholder community throughout the state. The Committee meeting dates are published on the SECB Calendar and meeting materials are available on the SECB Meeting Materials page. The meetings are open to the public and your participation is welcome.
We Need Your Help for Our Connected Future
A major element of the Wireless Broadband Program is to understand the needs, issues, gaps and challenges of our public safety community and to create a blueprint to address these challenges. We need your expertise and experience to develop the vision and create a plan that achieves this goal.
January – March 2020: Our program will be engaging with the stakeholder community to better understand areas that require attention.
April – June 2020: In the second quarter, we will begin the planning process for addressing these challenges.
How can I get involved now?
We will begin assembling working groups and are looking for participants from all disciplines and from Metro and Greater Minnesota to ensure our work reflects the needs of all emergency responders in the state. If you would like to participate in groups that focus on Push-To-Talk over cellular, Situational Awareness capabilities, a Wireless Broadband Strategic Technology Reserve, or baseline broadband data capabilities for law enforcement and Fire/EMS, please reach out to Melinda Miller (Melinda.firstname.lastname@example.org). We would also like to hear from you if you have suggestions for other topics our program should address.
Broadband service provider selection happens at the agency and individual level. Each entity has a unique set of needs and different priorities for each. Cost, coverage, capacity, devices, reliability, and customer service are among the primary attributes to consider when selecting a provider.
At the same time, the commercial broadband provider landscape is changing dramatically as carriers aggressively build out 5G capabilities and grow their coverage across the state. FirstNet began providing unique capabilities tailored to the public safety community in 2016, and other carriers have since announced specialized offerings as well. This heightened interest in public safety’s business is good for our stakeholder community, and ECN recommends that stakeholders engage with the carriers to determine which carrier best meets their unique needs. Because of the Federal investment in FirstNet, ECN recommends that stakeholders consider the FirstNet offerings; however, ECN is carrier agnostic and encourages independent due diligence by individuals and agencies to make the right decisions for themselves.
Decision-Making Resources (Coming Soon!)
The Wireless Broadband and Applications Committee is in the process of finalizing their requirements for the Minnesota Public Safety Broadband Network. The Wireless Broadband Program will also be developing a requirements document and checklist applicable to all carriers that will help users identify their needs and determine whether a carrier meets those needs. Check back soon for updates.
We know coverage is king – without reliable coverage where it’s needed, even the best devices and apps still won’t work. To help agencies tackle this issue, the Wireless Broadband Program will also sponsor coverage analysis soon. That program will enable interested agencies to collect coverage information in their service areas to build a statewide map of coverage. Contact Melinda Miller if you would like to participate in that program.
As part of our State and Local Implementation Grant Program grant, we are conducting bi-annual user forums with FirstNet to enable stakeholders to engage with FirstNet and AT&T to better understand their plans and service. The Wireless Broadband Program is eager to extend this sponsored program to other carriers. Contact Melinda Miller if you would like ECN to host meetings with other carriers or if you would like to attend a FirstNet session.
Broadband Apps and Devices
Broadband networks deliver data from the cloud (or your agency) to you in the field, but we need applications and data to add the real value. The Wireless Broadband Program is actively researching next generation application and device improvements to make better use of these advanced networks. Through 2021, we will be developing detailed plans to address our application and device challenges. Our vision is that public safety agencies can share and receive information, when needed and as authorized, across disciplines and borders. We will identify and address the impediments to information sharing during this period.
Minnesota Wireless Broadband Data Use and Applications Survey
This survey will help us understand the wireless broadband landscape across the state, including information about app usage, data use and data sharing among public safety. We’re looking for input from all public safety personnel in the state, even if you don’t use broadband data today.