One concern voiced by many public-safety representatives is the coverage that FirstNet subscribers will experience in rural areas. Ray Lehr, Clear Management Solutions’ chief of public-safety consulting, said he has been impressed with the AT&T coverage plans for rural areas of Virginia that have been shared with state officials.

“I think that there’s a belief that, because the emphasis has been put on 72 deployable vehicles and satellite coverage, AT&T’s plan is not to really build out rural, but—if you have an event out there—it will roll out a vehicle,” Lehr said. “I can tell you, directly from AT&T, that is not their plan.

“What AT&T has been doing in these meetings is rolling up a map on the screen—it’s a proprietary map, so they caution everybody not to take photos of it—that actually shows their build plan for the next several years. In rural areas—in particular, where there are issues—they have plans to build out there. So, it’s going to be an actual tower.

“It’s just not going to be deployables and satellite coverage to cover rural. AT&T has actual build plans—and build plans they’re willing to share with public safety—that talk about how they’re going to provide coverage in rural areas throughout the country.”

No matter what the governor’s “opt-in/opt-out” decision is, public-safety adoption of LTE will be driven largely by the ability for broadband solutions to complement legacy LMR functionality—and for the combination to be cost-effective, according to Gregg Toback, Anritsu’s senior field manager for the Eastern region.

“Industry is working hard to empower communications of the message that a combination of LTE and LMR is an affordable solution. That is something that is stemming not only from the vendors but also from the 3GPP organization [that is the standards body for LTE]. Public-safety and critical-communications organizations are communicating that message, as well.”