What Property Owners Need to Know About FirstNet

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 17:02

Decades Later, a Fulfillment on a Safety Plan

Nearly two decades after the 9/11 commission’s recommendations for a nationwide public safety network, FirstNet is being deployed by over 9,000 first responder agencies and has a commitment from all 50 states. The process has been long and marked by many changes, but it’s finally become a reality. Many stakeholders are finding their way to designing in and deploying FirstNet connectivity into buildings and public spaces. For property owners, the demand is high, and the benefits are tremendous.

Tenants demands for in-building wireless have only increased over this time as well. Antennas systems in buildings help distribute wireless internet coverage, as well as cover ground plans with access to FirstNet systems that provide coverage for first responders in an emergency. It’s not a wish-list item, it’s a must-have, and property owners are looking for effective and efficient ways to satisfy these demands for connectivity and safety.

Wireless coverage can be difficult, and influenced by many factors: building materials, existing cabling and mount locations, quality of antenna materials, and more. It’s important for property owners to know that not all wireless antenna hardware is alike, and that it’s not as simple as removing an existing antenna system and replacing it with another one. A quality RF installation requires planning, understanding, and forethought in order to deliver reliable connectivity in this critical application.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the three major factors affecting property owners as they upgrade their existing in-building antenna systems to address the urgent need for FirstNet connectivity.

1: More than Rip-and-Replace

When upgrading an existing in-building antenna installation, the temptation to simply install new antennas in the place of their pre-existing counterparts is common. After all, cable is already installed, mounts are mounted, and there is time involved in planning and testing for new topography. But this approach will almost certainly result in reduced efficiency, and will fail to provide the quality of service that is demanded.

Installing antennas for FirstNet almost always means supporting new frequency bands that were not required in a previous setup. Different frequency ranges have differing characteristics: They interact with walls and fixtures differently, scatter off of surfaces differently, and penetrate walls with greater or lesser ease. These interactions mean an unpredictable RF environment, one that can’t be counted on to work just as well in the previous location.

This means property owners need to consider the unique conditions of their indoor spaces, assess them properly, and install solutions that operate in those conditions. It’s important to have an RF consultation to determine the best locations for indoor antenna installations, and to install quality materials that make the most of those environments.

2: It’s Not Just About Cellular

A common misconception about FirstNet installations is that it’s primarily about opening up cellular connectivity within buildings. The truth is that FirstNet is not primarily about cellular. In fact, FirstNet is a multi-protocol standard that accounts for the many types of connections that are critical to first responders. Cellular is one piece of a larger puzzle that enables all kinds of bidirectional communications between first responders and dispatchers in an emergency.

In particular, many first responders agencies use UHF to facilitate voice communications. FirstNet’s implementation is meant to help this signal, as well as many others, coexist and not interfere within a given location. This means a FirstNet antenna installation must support LTE, UHF, and other protocols within a given space, and it means that those antennas must be properly placed, tuned, and installed to facilitate those communications happening simultaneously.

Another consideration is 5G, which is still emerging but which is certain to have a big role in public safety and first response in the coming future. 5G is being planned for use in high-throughput, low-latency applications such as supporting real-time body camera video and augmented reality building mapping and navigation. Both of these applications require a large amount of data and require ultra-low latency for up-to-the-second accuracy. And both require a well-functioning FirstNet antenna installation in order to increase first responder efficacy and save lives.

3: Don’t Neglect Aesthetics

It’s important to know that there are countless sizes and form factors for in-building FirstNet antennas, and that aesthetics are an important part of that decision. In-building antennas demand the extra attention to appearance, and it’s not necessary to neglect appealing aesthetics in order to achieve superior coverage. Distributed antenna systems can make use of low-profile, disc-shaped or rectangular panel antennas which are minimally obstructive and still achieve the high degree of performance demanded by tenants and first responder agencies.

These form factors, again, have differing performance characteristics as well, and offer the choice of directional or omnidirectional options based on the coverage that’s needed. All of this factors again into planning, and how to optimally provide coverage in a building’s interior with the right antennas in the right places.

Be prepared to choose the right form factors and locations for a FirstNet system whose performance AND aesthetics are as ideal as possible. With the wide array of options available for Laird Connectivity, there’s no reason not to optimize for both.

THE Antenna Authority on All Things FirstNet

Laird Connectivity are the experts on RF antennas for any application, and our decades of experience in wireless design have resulted in a full portfolio of high-performance, reliable antennas that perfectly suit your wireless deployments.  We offer a broad variety of antennas which are specifically designed to support FirstNet communications.

Our CFSA series in-building public safety antennas are designed to support UHF, 4G LTE, 2G/3G Cellular, UMTS/AWS-3, CBRS, and the Wi-Fi frequency bands. This provides an all-in-one coverage solution for the kinds of connectivity specifically demanded by tenants and by first responders, all in an aesthetically pleasing low-profile form factor.

We offer antennas specifically adjusted and customized for different use cases, mounts, or coverage needs. Our CMS Series are designed for even higher performance at a slight cost to profile. The dome-shaped antennas are designed specifically for the highest possible performance from a ceiling-mount location. Likewise, the PAV Series are directional, vertically polarized antennas designed to be mounted to walls or masts, for areas where unique coverage is needed.

Learn more about our public safety antennas, or how our custom antenna design services can build the perfect antenna for your application.