Who will this year’s DeMello Award winner be? The DeMello Award, presented to one individual in public safety communications who has demonstrated the highest levels of personal and professional conduct and performance in the local, state, and national public safety communications arena, was created in 2006 to honor the achievement of Richard DeMello, one of the founding fathers of NPSTC. Please join us to thank and recognize the winners of the DeMello, Chairman’s, Hertz, Atkinson, Leadership, and Participant Awards. You will also hear an overview of the work of the Broadband Working Group in the last 6 months in addition to learning more about the new Radio Interoperability Best Practices Working Group, the excellent response to the recently released Public Safety Grade report, border updates, and presentations from our federal partners, The IACP Public Safety Broadband Forum will be held at the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) in Washington, D.C. Agenda and more details are on NPSTC’s Meeting Page.
Lots of Net Neutrality news this week as the FCC moves to try and make some changes to the Internet. This is going to be an interesting issue to watch and reactions are mixed, some really like what the FCC is proposing and some oppose it. Meanwhile Congress is weighing in but only because donor dollars are being received by those with one view or another. FirstNet appears to be making progress after many months of stagnation. It is good to see them moving forward, hiring good people, and working closer with the States, Territories, and Tribal Nations. I hope the momentum continues. As Bill Schrier points out in his articles listed in the news, this is a daunting task but it can be done. I was very encouraged by the comments of the acting General Manager of FirstNet at the IACP event recently in which he reiterated the need to continue to make use of, and invest in, existing Land Mobile Radio systems. With all of the hype surrounding voice over IP or VoLTE, and the OMA now saying they are working with 3GPP on a Push-to-Talk Standard for LTE, I am still concerned that elected officials will stop funding needed upgrades to LMR Public Safety Systems. This would be unwise and could create some real problems for the Public Safety Community. Have a great holiday week-end and the news summary will continue the week after next. Andy Continue reading
The Politics of Mission-Critical Voice
When I left FirstNet in December of 2013, the general manager and others had agreed with me that voice on the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) would have to wait until it was a proven technology and until data/video broadband capabilities had been implemented. I was happy with this approach. It meant that investment in LMR voice systems would continue and FirstNet would have an opportunity to determine system loading for data and video, and how much capacity might be available on the spectrum to share with partners and to add Voice over LTE (VoLTE).
The Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) folks in Boulder, Colo. are working with the LTE standards body (3GPP), which has been working on the addition of a specification to the 3GPP LTE standard to support Mission-Critical Voice (MCV) over LTE, and to come up with a standard for off-network voice and data communications (simplex, tactical, peer-to-peer communications). But the Public Safety community agreed that the most important function of the new LTE network would be to provide access to data and video and VoLTE would be added at some point. They also agreed that LMR voice systems, which are the lifeline of the first responder community, would be around for a long time to come. Continue reading
There was a lot of news covering many different subjects this past two weeks. Most important for Public Safety is all of the activity surrounding the FirstNet Board of Directors meeting and the information that was released during the public committee and then Public Board Meeting. Since I was not able to attend either, and was not able to watch the proceedings in real time on the web, I will comment on only what I saw during the video replay and from what I have heard since the events this week.
First was the appointment of Sue Swenson as the new Chairman of the FirstNet Board. Sue is an industry veteran who has served on the board since the beginning. She was deeply involved in the FirstNet/BTOP grant discussions that led up to allowing some but not all of the BTOP grant recipients to move forward. While she comes from the commercial side of the industry she has earned the respect of many within the Public Safety community and is looked upon as someone who cares about getting FirstNet up and running and getting it done the right way the first time around. I, for one, am very pleased with this appointment.
The news is mostly positive for FirstNet this time around. Public Safety really wants this to happen and even though there have been too many delays based on Federal bureaucratic imposed limitations as to the true power of the BOD when it comes to hiring, firing, and running the business, the Public Safety community, for the most part, still wants to see it succeed. If FirstNet had been a private corporation or if those at the Department of Commerce/NTIA had interpreted its Congressional mandate differently we would no doubt be much further down the road. In the business world, hiring full-time employees, vetting them, and bringing them onboard is a 2-4 week process in most cases. Bringing a consultant onboard takes even less time, and having preliminary discussions with potential vendors is the norm, not having to go through an extended Request for Information (RFI) process.
The problem with the RFI process is that since it is a public filing those responding won’t truly provide real, concrete information because their competitors will be privy to the contents. So for better or worse, we are saddled with a system where the “company” running the project, designing it, building it or having it built, and then managing it is not the organization that has the final say in what actually happens. I have to remain confident that these issues will be resolved, but I can tell you that if FirstNet was truly an independent company there would be “sticks in the ground,” partnerships signed and onboard, and equipment in the field ready for deployment. No private investors or stockholders who paid for stock would sit still for this long without seeing any tangible results or income stream.
In other news, the NPSTC Public Safety Grade Document (http://www.npstc.org/download.jsp?tableId=37&column=217&id=3070&file=NPSTC_Press_Release_140522_newer.pdf), which is now public, is an important document. When I was a vice-chair of the APCO Broadband Committee we provided the communications site portion of the document to NPSTC and worked many long, hard hours. Joe Ross of Televate and I co-Chaired this task but many others including the Broadband Committee Chairman, Bill Schrier, and the entire committee invested hundreds of hours of time on this one segment of the report. We knew from the start that many existing Public Safety sites did not meet the “mission-critical” requirements set forth in the document but we hoped, and continue to hope, that it will be reviewed not only by the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Council and FirstNet but that many local organizations would read it and at least perform an initial assessment of their own Public Safety sites, perhaps over time making some changes to bring them closer into compliance.
We are using this document in my County to evaluate our existing sites and as we add new sites to the Public Safety systems. Not in the news but important for First Responders, and MORE important for those building communications systems for First Responders, it should be noted that sometimes the incidents are so quick and so fast that what you have available to you is what you have period. Here in Santa Barbara during the Isla Vista incident the entire rampage (after the murders inside the apartment) took only 8 minutes. During that time, 12 crime scenes developed, 50 rounds of ammunition were fired, and two people were run down by the shooter’s car. There was no time to establish an Incident Command system, no time for planning, no time for a master communications plan, no attempt to bring in cells on wheels, portable repeaters, or a command vehicle. Everything was over in a short 8 minutes! Have a great weekend, Andy Continue reading
It is Monday; I missed my Friday deadline because I was attending the Dayton Amateur Radio Convention. The weather was lousy this year but our group still had a lot of fun as we have for the past 30+ years. One of the things I enjoy about Dayton is a chance to see, and buy, some of the latest handhelds and mobile units coming out of China. While these are type accepted for Part 90 they certainly are not front line, ruggedized radios but for others who need a very capable radio at a great price they work very well, and as they get better they will challenge the current Public Safety Radio vendors I am sure.
The first type 90 radios coming out of China were lacking in a number of features that Public Safety needs however the latest batch is getting better. I bought two AnyTone AT-3318UV handhelds. They are 5 watt, VHF/UHF analog FM radios with 200 channels and this radio permits you to bank the channels in 10 groups of 20 channels each. Further, it is dual band VHF and UHF with dual receive and it supports 1 plus 1 and DTMF alerting functions. The show price was $90 each including antenna, belt clip, charger and battery. Software for programming will be available from RT systems next week and they support both wide and narrow band modes including the 2.5 KHz split channels. Continue reading
Lot’s going on within the FirstNet world, and from what I have heard the discussion about Mission Critical Voice being available on the FirstNet Network by 2018 is once again making the rounds. I will have more to say about this next week but for now my concern is that those who are pushing Mission Critical Voice on the FirstNet system are playing directly into the hands of those in Congress who took the T-Band away from Public Safety and would like nothing better than to take the rest of the existing LMR spectrum back and figure out a way of monetizing it. This issue is 10% technology and 90% politics and those pushing the technology don’t seem to be aware of the political consequences of doing so. Have a great week-end Andy
FirstNet putting together two key network RFPs, solicits possible board members – techinvestornews.com via Google AlertsMay 7 16:01The First Responders Network Authority is preparing two future requests for proposals (RFPs) related to the rollout of the national public-safety …
APCO International Awards Leaders in Public Safety Policy | Public Safety Communications – apcointl.org via Google Alerts May 8 12:59 Federal Communications Commission. Since 2006, Timothy May has been a Policy Analyst in the Policy & Licensing Division of the FCC’s Public … Continue reading