The COVID-19 pandemic, which to date has sickened tens of thousands of Americans and killed hundreds, is testing the viability of the FirstNet network in ways never seen before. The exponential increase in the number of cases in the country is pulling in more and more emergency medical services personnel, police officers, firefighters and other public safety officials, often in more remote areas, who all need real-time data exchange, network connectivity and communication tools.
Amid broad federal, state and local efforts to improve public safety communications, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is leading research to establish interoperability among diverse government organizations that aid the public when it is most in peril. The agency’s goal is for legacy systems and new mobile technologies to exchange vital voice and data communications in a crisis.
It may be only a matter of time before first responders using mobile devices can share emergency data by piggybacking on spectrum donated by public television broadcasters. The datacasting capability allows one person to broadly share video or other data without running out of bandwidth or clogging traditional communication channels.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T’s) datacasting project has made major strides and will engage in two pilot demonstrations in the coming months before undergoing testing in the next fiscal year, which could lead to widespread deployment.
FirstNet, the independent authority tasked with building a first-ever, nationwide wireless broadband network for public safety, announced Wednesday a huge initiative toward realization of the network.
The agency finalized a yearlong process to establish mechanisms and relationships that will let it systematically collect critical information and input from all U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia that will benefit from the network.