The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) today reviewed initial conclusions in a report being finalized by its LMR to LTE integration working group. During a meeting in Washington, Chris Kindelspire, chair of the working group, said it was still finalizing a report on LMR/LTE integration and interoperability, but he discussed about 12 conclusions that will be in the report, including the need for open standards so agencies can use various vendors, the importance of the integration of LMR and LTE push-to-talk voice services, the belief that 3GPP standards on direct mode communications aren’t keeping pace with PTT network deployment, uncertainty on how 3GPP standards will be implemented, the importance of encryption for some tactical voice communications, and the need to define “mission critical.”
Also at the meeting, the NPSTC board approved a best practice on after-action reviews by the radio interoperability best practices working group.
David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, noted that the agency planned to soon complete action in its procedures for assessing alternative First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) state plans. An item addressing an interoperability compliance matrix submitted by FirstNet has been circulated to FCC Commissioners (TR Daily, Sept. 5). In June, the FCC adopted an order establishing its alternative plan review procedures (TR Daily, June 22), but the agency deferred action until it received additional input on consideration of the interoperability compliance matrix.
Mr. Furth also said the FCC would review the response to communications providers in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. And he noted that the bureau would hold a workshop this fall on how to deal with any interference from commercial to public safety operations in the 800 MHz band.
In response to a question, he said the agency did not have an “aspirational shot clock” for launching a T-band proceeding. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently told members of New York’s congressional delegation that the FCC was working on a framework for carrying out Congress’s dictate that public safety T-band spectrum be reallocated and auctioned by 2021 and incumbents be relocated by 2023 (TR Daily, July 31).
In other remarks, Charles Cooper, field director in the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, noted that the bureau was now listing all sanctions on the Daily Digest. He said the bureau was also working to fully staff some field offices.
Also at the meeting, Sridhar Kowdley, program manager in the First Responders Group in the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, discussed a July jamming exercise in Idaho to explore ways to mitigate jamming to public safety systems. “We’re still working through the results. There’s a lot of data,” he said. He noted that users of jammers include churches, restaurants, movie theaters, and resorts. DHS wants to work with NPSTC to raise awareness of jamming threats and steps that public safety agencies should take to increase communications resiliency, he said. “We want all levels of the organization to be aware of jamming,” Mr. Kowdley said.
He said it wanted agencies to know how to respond to jamming threats and implement initial recommendations that came out of the exercise, which was known as JamX 17. To mitigate jamming threats, equipment operators must take them seriously and take basic steps such as equipment shielding and height mitigation, according to the recommendations. Polarization of jammers also is effective, as is the use of automatic gain control in systems.
Organizations should consult their legal counsels to understand state and local jamming laws and should conduct regular training drills. They also should use multiple bands for backup systems and require that problems be promptly reported. For special events, agencies should develop a contingency plan and alert other jurisdictions of potential threats. Security teams should be trained in jammer identification and mitigation tactics, and events should be monitored with spectrum analyzers and direction-finding tools to pinpoint sources of interference. A jamming exercise was also held last year, and another one is planned for 2019.
Also at today’s meeting, Jim Downes, Federal Partnership for Interoperable Communications manager in DHS’s Office of Emergency Communications, said it was still awaiting Office of Management and Budget approval so it could release a long-awaited survey of first responders to help it update the national baseline assessment of public safety communications capabilities.
Five states have signed memoranda of understanding to allow them to access federal interoperability channels; 10 other states are close to signing an MoU, Mr. Downes said. Mr. Furth said the Public Safety Bureau planned to issue an order soon ratifying the MoU process.
Also today, Tom Gallagher, chief executive officer of the American Radio Relay League, urged NPSTC members to individually support congressional passage of the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2017 (HR 555), which passed the House in January (TR Daily, Jan. 23).
During an executive session after the open portion of today’s meeting, the NPSTC board agreed to review the federation’s options for a T-band resolution, decided to join the National Council on Public Safety UAS, and decided not to join the Wireless Innovation Forum, according to NPSTC Executive Director Marilyn Ward. —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org