How to Get Your First Responder Network Device Approved
Before your first responder device can be on the network, it must be vetted and certified by the First Responder Network Authority Device Team.
The First Responder Network’s Director of Devices Joe Martinet states, “To ensure the needs of public safety are met, the First Responder Network Authority has ... established and conducted audits and verification steps in this process.”
Currently, the First Responder Network is awarding certification to first responder end devices in five categories:
- Mobile hot spots
- Trunking devices
- Rugged devices
There are two levels of certification: capable (devices that do not support Band 14) and ready (those that do).
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you streamline the certification process and get your device to market sooner:
1. Brainstorm with experts.
Before diving deep into your design, find an expert solutions provider to work alongside you. Review the requirements and develop your device based on certification criteria and the unique needs of products for the cellular market. Partner with a cellular provider who will take the time to consult with you along the way, providing schematic reviews and evaluating telematics and other essentials.
“Developers sometimes pick the size of the device design without foreseeing what’s going to be required of them, and it’s physically impossible to pass the certification,” says Scott Ellis, director, product marketing and carrier relations, Telit. “Approach it the other way. Review ideas with your cellular provider ahead of time to make sure you’re on the fast track to certification.”
2. Choose a pre-certified cellular module or data card.
When you start with a pre-certified cellular component, you avoid most of the heavy lifting involved in the certification process. Your final product will still undergo testing, but it will be far simpler when your communications component is already proven to be stable and reliable.
At Telit, modules intended for the first responder market undergo a three-tiered testing process focusing on protocol, interoperability and performance.
“We also do field testing, which is important because it ensures interoperability and compliance on the live network itself,” says Ellis. “Ultimately, we want to reduce our customers’ risk by giving them a pre-certified component that will allow them to jump straight to end-product design.”
3. Consider antenna architecture.
To make sure a device is not disabled when an antenna breaks off in a mission-critical situation, designers put much effort into redundancy of antenna paths, but solutions are tricky.
“In this architecture, you can’t just stick in a T connector and add another antenna somewhere else,” Ellis explains. “Getting this wrong can have a major impact on the product’s ability to pass the certification process.”
Since the First Responder Network has guidelines for design performance, it’s essential to consult with experts to develop an antenna structure that will work.
4. Aim for interoperability and a future-proof product.
The first responder network is up and running, but many municipalities are still using commercial cellular networks for their communications needs and may continue to do so for some time. No mandate requires first responders to use the new network, so it’s crucial to create products that are operable on a variety of systems, including Band 14.
To learn more about the process of submitting your device for approval, check out these resources.
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