The Radio Access Network (RAN) portion of the network consists of the radio base station infrastructure that connects to user devices. RAN includes cell towers as well as mobile hotspots embedded in vehicles that backhaul to the core network over satellite or other types of wireless infrastructure.

Comprehensive RAN planning is required to optimize coverage, capacity and performance for a nationwide network. Initial modeling has shown that tens of thousands of radio base stations are needed to cover at least 99 percent of the population and the national highway system. Population coverage alone won’t suffice for public safety. State by state, FirstNet needs to understand public safety coverage needs.

Public safety factors

During consultation, FirstNet will work with the states to determine the coverage expectations and priorities that must be included in the RAN deployment plan to enable public safety to meet its mission, no matter where it takes them.

RAN Reliability

The very circumstances that can require first responders to come to the aid of others can also wreak havoc on RAN sites when first responders need coverage the most. Making a system reliable – one that public safety can trust – requires physical and operational redundancy and hardening.

Most network outages are due to power failures and the loss of data links. To be public safety-grade, FirstNet sites will need redundant power backup that relies on a variety of sources. Power, backhaul, sites and coverage will be designed with the goal of avoiding single points of failure.