APCO, NENA Clash on Suitability of NENA’s i3 NG-911 Standard

March 23, 2017– The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International and the National Emergency Number Association are clashing on the suitability of NENA’s i3 standard for next-generation 911 (NG-911) services. The NENA board of directors yesterday released a detailed statement blasting APCO for a March 17 statement that it issued criticizing the i3 standard and suggesting that another one be pursued for NG-911 services.

The APCO statement to members from APCO Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Derek Poarch cited draft NG-911 legislation recently circulated in the Senate (TRDaily, Feb. 28). “Among its many helpful provisions, the draft bill calls for an ‘accredited, non-proprietary, consensus-based, standards’ approach for all aspects of NG 9-1-1 services. The inclusion of this language is vital to APCO members and public safety communications professionals around the country that are looking to transition to NG 9-1-1,” Mr. Poarch said. “Accordingly, it is important for our community to understand the goals for NG 9-1-1 that we need to achieve, why NENA’s i3 presently fails to satisfy the draft bill’s requirements, and the path to ensuring 9-1-1 benefits from the innovation and flexibility enjoyed in the commercial sector.”

“NENA’s i3 is frequently referenced as a ‘standard’ for NG 9-1-1, but i3 is not a standard as described in the draft bill, nor does it ensure we achieve the objectives outlined above that are necessary for a truly successful roll-out of NG 9-1-1,” he added. “While NENA became an ANSI-accredited SDO [standards development organization] in 2013, it is very important to understand that i3 is not an accredited, consensus-based standard (through ANSI or any other accrediting body). Although i3 has been in development for at least 10 years, NENA has not utilized the ANSI processes needed to make it an accredited standard.”

“Complicating the fact that i3 is not yet an American National Standard, i3 is also incomplete, and it remains unclear when it will be complete. According to the latest version of NENA’s i3 document, released in Sept. 2016, significant development work remains for i3, ‘to achieve a level of specification necessary for full functional implementation and interoperability,’” Mr. Poarch added. “And as a consequence, this document cautions that ‘vendors may need to implement the function in a way that may not yet be interoperable with other implementations, and when the work is complete (in a future revision of this document), changes in such implementations may be necessary.’”

“Adding to this confusion, in an announcement distributed March 1, 2017 NENA, claimed to be ‘the developer of the consensus standard for NG9-1-1, i3.’ It’s misleading to suggest that i3 is a completed standard for NG 9-1-1, let alone that it’s ‘the’ standard,” the APCO statement said.

Mr. Poarch added, “Across the globe and in the U.S., standards already support fully interoperable IP-based wireless and fixed networks. This is what enables the sharing of multimedia content including audio, video, text, and photos regardless of the device, service provider, or network that is used. Known as IP Multimedia Subsystem, or ‘IMS,’ this standard is being extended to the NG 9-1-1 environment, and thus will play a key if not leading role for meeting the goals and requirements of the draft bill and providing the path needed to realize a full NG 9-1-1 deployment.”

NENA sent a statement from its board of directors to members yesterday responding to the APCO statement. The NENA statement was posted on the group’s website last night. “NENA’s i3 architecture standard is accepted and supported by industry and public safety practitioners around the world. Hundreds of developers, including members of NENA and APCO and many commercial partners, have worked diligently to develop both the i3 standard itself, and the broader family of NG9-1-1 standards built on the i3 architecture. These efforts have paid off spectacularly: The i3 standard is the universally-acknowledged basis for public safety deployments of NG9-1-1 systems,” NENA said. “In short, APCO’s characterizations of the i3 standard are simply wrong. By sowing doubt about the best way forward, APCO has endangered the timely roll-out of NG9-1-systems for the American public whom we serve.”

“i3 is a non-proprietary, consensus-based standard, developed according to strict process requirements. This standard describes protocols, interfaces, and systems to locate users who contact 9-1-1 via voice, video, text, data, and other means, route their ‘calls’ to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), and allow for easy transfers, failovers, and multi-party calls,” the group said. “The current revision of i3 (revision 2), was developed using NENA’s ANSI-accredited standards processes, ensuring openness, inclusivity, fairness, and due process to all stakeholders. However, NENA chose not to make revision 2 a candidate American National Standard, because we wanted more experience with ANSI processes before submitting a standard of i3’s complexity. The NENA Development Group is actively working on i3 revision 3, using the same ANSI-accredited process. As an American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited Standards Development Organization, NENA notified ANSI in 2015 that this revision will be a candidate American National Standard.”

NENA also cited a statement by former APCO President Gregg Riddle expressing support for the i3 standard’s NG-911 architecture. NENA also said that “i3 and IMS share a common heritage. They are compatible and complementary standards. Contrary to APCO’s statement, they are not competitors. While NENA expects that some carriers will choose to implement IMS-based functions in their networks, that does not mean that 9-1-1 authorities should fear implementing i3-based NG9-1-1 systems now, or in the future. i3 represents the consensus standard for NG9-1-1 systems in the public safety community, and the clear path forward for NG9-1-1.

“APCO’s statement attempts to both cast doubt on the work of dedicated standards developers, and sow confusion in a public safety market that needs certainty, now more than ever,” NENA added. “NENA hopes that the facts laid out here will set the record straight once and for all.”

Meanwhile, the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT) today endorsed the i3 standard. Some of ICERT’s members have done that, but the group as a whole did not until now. “Re-engineering technological solutions that are far into the development cycle at this point would not only be costly to both industry and public agencies, it would delay the implementation of NG911 nationwide by the year 2020, which is the goal adopted by the NG911 Now Coalition,” George Rice, iCERT’s executive director, said in a news release.

“The i3 standard for NG911 was developed through collaborative efforts by NENA, APCO, and numerous public safety industry professionals, including representatives from many of iCERT’s member companies,” iCERT said in a position statement. “It has been the focus of NG911 standards development for more than a decade, and is universally accepted by industry as the standard upon which NG911 systems are based. This is true for NG911 systems deployed in the United States, as well as Canada, and the European Union has also adopted i3 as the basis for its advanced emergency response systems.”

iCERT also said that it “believes that the accelerated implementation of NG911 technology is critical to the safety and security of the nation. As the current standard for NG911, i3 is a vital component to achieving that goal. While NG911 standards may continue to evolve, iCERT believes that a decision to supplant i3 with a different standard would be costly to industry and public sector agencies, could delay the implementation of NG911 by many years, and could significantly undermine the current and future effectiveness of the nation’s emergency response efforts.”

APCO and NENA have disagreed before on issues, although they have also worked together with industry on consensus 911 proposals presented to the FCC. As an example of the former, APCO is not a member of the NG911 NOW Coalition, which was launched last year by NENA, iCERT, and the National Association of State 911 Administrators (TRDaily, Feb. 23, 2016).  APCO has focused on NG-911 through its Project 43. – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily