Director, Shared Services, City of Charlotte: “I believe that the focus should be on regional, rather than national, partnerships”

Chuck Robinson, director of shared services for the City of Charlotte is speaking in the Public Safety LTE track on Day Two of the LTE North America conference, taking place on the 21st-22nd November 2013, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Ahead of the show we speak to him about the key challenges of creating a public safety network in the US with LTE.

What are the key benefits you feel LTE brings to public safety networks?

LTE brings a standards based technology that can ensure nationwide interoperability for first responders at all levels. It is also commercially available technology that enables us to control costs and will provide us with the capacity to meet the needs of daily and emergency operations.

Are there still limitations with LTE technology that will need to be overcome in terms of providing mission-critical voice and data?

Yes there are. Two of the most significant are establishing 3GPP standards for “direct connect and talk around” and “broadcast”. We also need hardware devices suitable for public safety applications.

The LTE North America conference is taking place on the 21st-22nd November 2013, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Click here NOW to download a brochure for the event.

What do you feel is the optimal governance structure for public safety network rollout? Is local, regional, state or national level best?

The governance challenge is to find the best balance between what is best politically or culturally, and what is most operationally effective. My personal opinion is that FirstNet should establish an operational advisory board made up of a single representative from national regions. This could be from the FEMA established regions or a configuration established by FirstNet. These representatives would advance the operational challenges and oversight to FirstNet from States through their governance structures.

Are public-private partnerships going to be critical to public safety network success?

Absolutely, otherwise the national network will not get built. However, I believe that the focus should be on regional partnerships rather than national partnerships. The national carriers have not been keen to solve rural service issues in the past and this is where FirstNet will need the most help with infrastructure and where spectrum sharing will provide the greatest overall value to the tax payer.  This partnership delivers:

  • A nationwide partner for rural carriers with quality frequencies to facilitate roaming and reduce devices costs for their customers.
  • Infrastructure in rural America where FirstNet needs it.
  • Economic development in rural America by providing access to last mile broadband.

How do you plan on overcoming the business model limitations that affected your spectrum-lease agreement with FirstNet? Will public safety networks be able to be price-competitive with national carriers?

I believe that the FirstNet network will be price-competitive based on QoS with national carriers.

What are your predictions on network rollout over the next few years?

There are so many variables on this that I would not even hazard a guess.  I know that FirstNet wants components of the network operational in the next couple of years and state level decision in significantly less than five years.

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