SAN DIEGO—Public-safety adoption of FirstNet is proceeding well during the first months of the first-responder network being available, and the pace of change within the sector could accelerate in the future, according to FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson.

“[FirstNet has had] pretty good progress in a year—I think it’s pretty amazing, frankly,” Swenson said yesterday during her keynote address at the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Broadband Stakeholders conference. “I think people are surprised at the pace and the speed that this happening, and I think you will continue to be surprised with the pace.”

Last March, FirstNet announced AT&T as its contractor to build, maintain and upgrade its nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN). Last December, governors for all 56 states and territories completed their “opt-in” decisions. This year, AT&T completed the dedicated FirstNet core network, began deploying equipment to support 700 MHz Band 14 operations, and initiated sales of FirstNet services to public safety throughout the country.

FirstNet could have a transformative impact on the way that public-safety agencies operate, much as wireless technology has had on other segments of society, Swenson said, citing the use of wireline telephony as an example.

 “When we first started talking about Leap [Wireless, now Cricket] as a product, people said, ‘Who’s going to disconnect their landline? Who’s going to actually do that?’” Swenson said. “We said, ‘I think it’s going to happen faster than you realize.’

“Who here still owns a landline? You can see how quickly that [wireless-technology transition] happens, and I think the same thing’s going to happen in public safety, in terms of the pace of change, all of the things that are happening at PSCR, all of the things that are happening in public safety. Once people start to see the use cases and how to use it, I think you’re going to see the pace of this really start to pick up. I think it’s really pretty exciting.”

But Swenson emphasized that public safety and FirstNet should resist the temptation to become complacent, calling on public-safety personnel to work together in identifying key applications and capabilities they need to perform their jobs.

“I think that our work is not done,” Swenson said. “It’s great that we have this network. It’s great that we have an opportunity to put all of these great technologies on it. But I think that we’re going to have to continue to work very hard—this is beginning of the story, not the end of the story.

“We’ve kind of built an Autobahn for public safety. You’ve been driving on these old roads with in the old jalopy car. Now, you’ve got an Autobahn. What kind of cars are you going to put on that Autobahn to make sure that public safety optimizes its capability here? This is an incredible resource for public safety, so what are they going to put on that highway?”