remote winter forest ( By Raland/

FirstNet investigates off-network communications

FirstNet is researching ways to provide off-network broadband communications to public-safety workers.

In some cases, responders must operate in remote areas with no access to broadband communications. They may be too far from network towers or base stations or fighting fires in buildings that have lost power and have intermittent cellular coverage.

The FirstNet Authority wants to better understand emerging technologies and potential capabilities for enabling not just device-to-device communications but also relay networks and a full range of data services, according to an Aug. 12 request for information.  It wants responders to be able to share pictures, video, location or internet-of-things data with other responders, devices, drones and third-party applications without access to the macro network – the towers, base stations, cables and other physical facilities that provide communications.

In addition to understanding land mobile radio and “LMR-like” off-network capabilities, FirstNet is also looking for information on emerging technologies that take advantage of broadband capabilities for video, location and other situational awareness information.  

“Understanding emerging technologies that may be applicable to first responder communications, especially where the ‘Macro Network’ is not reachable or not functioning as planned, is paramount to the Authority’s mission of prudent and effective reinvestment into the network,” the RFI said.

Responses are due Sept. 30. Read the full solicitation here.

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