Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, September 14, 2017

Public Safety Grade AT&T recently stated at a congressional hearing that there was no “real” definition for the term, “Public Safety Grade.” The public safety community responded with disbelief, led by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) which had published a paper addressing all of the issues needed to qualify as a Public Safety Grade Network. The document, “Defining Public Safety Grade Systems and Facilities,” was published in May of 2014 after much work by many people. Starting on page 108 of the document is a list of individuals and organizations that contributed to this report and the list is three pages long.

In all fairness to AT&T, at last week’s NPTSC meeting in Washington, DC, the AT&T senior vice president in charge of FirstNet stood up and apologized to NPSTC for his comments and then spoke about how AT&T is moving toward public safety grade status. His apology and comments were well received by NPSTC and the clarification was timely and well-articulated.

What he did not say and what I hope to show in this week’s Advocate is that there are differences between public safety grade for Land Mobile Radio (LMR) sites and an LTE network. It is important for LMR communications professionals to understand these differences and not hold AT&T to public safety grade for every cell site in the network. The methodology for hardening an LTE network is different but effective and it is these differences that need to be understood. Continue reading

FirstNet Officials Defend Benefits of Network to Public Safety

First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) officials today defended the benefits of the network to first responders, implicitly criticizing a rival offering by Verizon Communications, Inc. The board also approved a fiscal year 2018 budget and officials said that lessons can be learned from the preparation for and response to recent hurricanes and wildfires. At the board’s quarterly meeting in Boulder, Colo., the officials again and again stressed the commitment of FirstNet and AT&T, Inc., the authority’s network partner, to meeting the needs of public safety agencies, from applications to devices to radio access networks (RANs) to a dedicated public safety core network, and they suggested that the planned FirstNet offerings were superior to others, without mentioning Verizon by name.

“They’re not just doing this as a marketing tactic,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said of AT&T. “This is a commitment.” “Public safety is our only business,” he also said. “We only have one priority.” Mr. Poth also said that the FirstNet system “isn’t something that can be replicated overnight by switching on a switch.”

Last month, Verizon announced that it would offer priority and preemption to public safety customers and that it plans to deploy a dedicated public safety core network (TR Daily, Aug. 15). The offering could pose serious competition to FirstNet and AT&T, as many in the public safety community view Verizon’s network as more extensive and reliable and the carrier has a dominant share of the public safety market.

But Mr. Poth said at today’s meeting that public safety is not concerned “with market competition.” However, in response to Verizon’s announcement, some in the public safety community said that such competition was good for first responders.

Board Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson said today that AT&T has made commitments to FirstNet, “and we’re going to hold them accountable.” He also said that some public safety organizations are certified and others are not, suggesting that FirstNet was. Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, September 8, 2017

Public Safety Devices As FirstNet moves forward with more than twenty opt-ins, and the network begins to take shape, questions remain about the types of devices that will be needed and wanted by the public safety community. The original vison put forth by many of us working on the project prior to Congress allocating the spectrum or creating FirstNet is that at some point a single device would be carried by all first responders to access both broadband and Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems. Why burden those who already carry a belt full of gear with yet another device? However, during recent conversations with some of those advocating for public safety broadband and with many of today’s first responders, it appears as though the vision of one person, one device may not always be the best choice. It is clear that we will start with existing land mobile radio portables, smartphones, and tablets. AT&T has made it simple for opt-in states.

An agency simply signs up and its users receive new Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards for their existing smartphones (if they are compatible with AT&T’s spectrum). Over time, as AT&T builds out FirstNet Band 14, new devices can be purchased. There are already several offerings on the market, specifically from Sonim, that meet the need for hardened, long battery life devices and more are coming from Motorola, Harris, Tait, JVCKenwood, and others. LMR vendors are working on cross-over devices or devices that communicate back-and forth between LMR and LTE networks.

Discussions I have had indicate more than ever that there will need to be multiple types of devices, offering multiple types of services or combinations of services. One of the issues with this, of course, is that vendors do not like to build a few each of many different types of devices and would rather build many of one type. One of the reasons LMR radios are so expensive is that there are so many different radios needed for different portions of the LMR spectrum that production costs remain high. Read the Entire Blog Here

Senators Blast The FCC For Weakening The Definition Of Broadband To Try And Hide The Industry’s Lack Of Real CompetitionTechdirt Corporate Intelligence Sep  8 15:05 Back in 2015, the FCC raised the standard definition of broadband from 4 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up, to an arguably-more-modern 25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up. Of course the uncompetitive broadband industry (and the lawmakers who adore them) subsequently threw a collective hissy fit about the change, because they realized a higher bar would only highlight their failure to deliver next-generation broadband to vast swaths of America. And highlight it did: by this…

Vermont Releases RFP for Statewide LTE RANMissionCritical Sep  8 10:03 The Vermont Office of Purchasing & Contracting, on behalf of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), is soliciting proposals for an alternative solution to the nationwide offering of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). Proposals are sought from qualified firms to build, operate and maintain a statewide radio access network (RAN) to connect to and be fully interoperable with the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN). read more

AT and T Exec Backtracks on Public Safety Grade CommentsMissionCritical Sep  8 10:03 Chris Sambar, AT&T senior vice president, apologized for comments he made “that may have been misleading” regarding a definition of public safety grade for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) nationwide public-safety broadband network. read more Continue reading

TRDaily Reports: NPSTC Board Reviews Conclusions for LMR/LTE Integration Report

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,

Courtesy TRDaily

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 31, 2017

APCO, FirstNet, and PTT over LTE.  Mid-month August, Denver hosted the annual Public Safety Conference. While those elected to APCO’s executive offices seem to be moving APCO more toward dispatch and training in that area, the show floor still represents what APCO has always been to me. It is an organization founded on the premise that public safety communications staffers needed a place to meet and discuss issues. Dispatchers and dispatch centers were a very important part of APCO for sure, but it now appears as though APCO is leaving its technical roots behind in favor of only one segment of the communications continuum. The good news is that the APCO show floor still represents all the various communications disciplines needed to provide public safety with end-to-end communications capabilities.

Only two short weeks after this gathering in Denver, Houston was hit by Hurricane Harvey. It is too soon for after-action reports since flooding and rescue efforts are still very much in the news, but preliminary numbers from the FCC indicate there were some call center outages, and some cell sites were offline, but not as many as might be expected. Of course, the FCC’s data was gathered during the height of the storm and may need to be revised as sites run out of fuel or connections to sites are damaged or flooded. The FCC does not maintain records on public safety LMR so there is no way at this point to compare and contrast the differences. However, listening to Houston Police and Fire Dispatch via the Internet it appears from a distance that their systems are fully functional and operational.

We also do not have any details regarding the Band 14 pre-FirstNet public safety LTE network that has been deployed and working in the Houston area for many months. As the rain subsides and the flooding ebbs, there will be plenty of after-action reports that will prove valuable to the entire public safety community. The head of the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) is right in the middle of the Houston Public Safety communications scene and I think when this is over he, among others, will be able to provide some important information on what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to be improved before another incident occurs. Read the Entire Blog Here .

Alaska becomes 16th state to ‘opt-in’ to FirstNetUrgent Communications Aug 31 06:30 Alaska Gov. Bill Walker announces his decision to accept the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by …

Hawaii Opts in to FirstNetMissionCritical Aug 30 10:03 Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced his decision to accept the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T state plan for a public-safety broadband network. read more

Idaho City Gets Waiver for 700 MHz Wideband Mobile Data SystemMissionCritical Aug 31 10:03 The FCC granted a waiver to the city of Post Falls, Idaho, to allow the city to operate its wideband mobile data system on channels in the portion of the 700 MHz band reserved for public-safety narrowband systems. read more

Hurricane Harvey Suggests that Emergency Networks Improving Even Before FirstNetIT Business Edge Aug 31 05:35 When coupled with the creation of FirstNet and other dedicated emergency communications networks, it suggests that the big challenge of allowing …

Alaska to Transform Communications for Public Safety; Governor Walker Approves Buildout Plan for First Responder NetworkPR Newswire Aug 30 14:40 RESTON, Va., Aug. 30, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Alaska is modernizing communications technology for its first responders. Today, Governor Bill Walker announced his decision to accept the FirstNet and AT&T* plan to deliver a wireless broadband network to the state’s public safety community….

NTIA Releases Final Rules on FirstNet FeesMissionCritical Aug 30 10:03 The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued a final rule regarding its review of fees that the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) may assess to help fund operations. NTIA will ensure that the fees FirstNet assesses are sufficient to cover its expenses but do not exceed what is needed to carry out its duties, an NTIA statement said. read more

Has FirstNet Rebranded AT&T’s Network as the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network?The National Law Review Aug 29 17:20 The actual terms of the agreement between FirstNet and AT&T remain unavailable to the public for proprietary reasons. However, what has been …

NTIA issues final rule for its review of FirstNet feesUrgent Communications Aug 29 16:45 Under the 2012 law that created FirstNet as the entity to build and maintain a nationwide public-safety broadband network, NTIAthe federal agency …

AT&T Exec Highlights Priority, Pre-Emption, App ProgramRadio Resource Aug 28 20:20 AT&T officials offered more details on priority and pre-emption and the application store for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) during …

FCC Activated Disaster Information Reporting System for Hurricane HarveyTV Technology Aug 28 17:10 WASHINGTONThe FCC is offering its support to the communities affected by Hurricane Harvey by having its Public Safety and Homeland Security …

Vodafone Ireland launch Nationwide Commercial Narrowband NB-IoT NetworkIrish Tech News Aug 31 08:55 NB-IoT will also provide benefits to communities in rural Ireland, with a number of advancements in connected health, such as Remote Health Care, …

U-blox enables narrowband IoT street lightingElectronics Weekly Aug 31 08:00 Streetlight remote management firm InteliLight has used Swiss company U-blox’s Sara-N2 series of  narrowband IoT (NB‒IoT) modules to control a connected smart streelight system in Romania. InteliLight used Flashnet’s NB‒IoT connected smart street lighting control system. A pilot project is already deployed on the OTE (Telekom) network in Patras, Greece. Having identified NB‒IoT as strategically important, … This story continues at U-blox enables narrowband IoT street lighting Or just r

2017 marks a new era for massive commercial use of China’s narrowband IoTGoogle Alerts Aug 31 08:00 As of May 2017, the number of connections to China Mobile IOT had exceeded 120 million, making China Mobile the largest IOT service provider in …

A New Satellite Company Offers Governments the Ability to Track People From SpaceOuter Places Aug 30 18:20 According to Walter Scott, DigitalGlobe’s founder and CTO, “A large percentage of the population lives in a really narrow band of latitudes,” meaning …

DC court says Dish skirted rules in US airwave auctionThe Register Aug 30 06:00 No bid credits for sockpuppets, rules judge A US Court of Appeals has upheld US broadband watchdog the FCC’s decision to bar companies connected to satellite provider Dish Network from claiming discounts on their bids in a 2014 wireless spectrum auction.…

Ixia Launches New LTE Test Solution for Cellular IoTDATAQUEST Aug 30 03:55 … Long Term Evolution (LTE) test solution for cellular IoT enhanced Machine-Type Communication(eMTC) and Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technologies …

Hawai’i to Transform Communications for Public Safety; Governor Ige Approves Buildout Plan for …Cellular News Aug 29 16:45 Governor David Ige recently announced his decision to accept the FirstNet and AT&T plan to deliver a wireless broadband network to the state’s …

700 mhz public safety radiosMetro Encounter Aug 29 08:50 Oct 12, 2009 to Land Mobile Radio (LMR) mission critical public safety voice adjacent to the public safety broadband spectrum (the 700 MHz D Block).

FCC’s Pai: News Outlets Play Critical Role in Harvey AidMultichannel News Aug 28 17:10 Today, I have talked with FCC public safety and enforcement staff, including field agents who have been traveling throughout the storm zone, to thank …

Arkansas sheriff’s office sends rescue team, Little Rock company dispatches buses to TexasArkansas Online Aug 28 16:20 … for help, we, too, will respond and assist the first responders who are overwhelmed with rescue efforts, Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said in the statement.

Why Ordinary Citizens Are Acting as First Responders in HoustonThe Atlantic Aug 28 14:30 The first responders are the neighbors. Bystanders. People that are willing to act. That underpinned whole-community response, the principle …

Communications Service Providers Asked to Adopt the FCC CSRIC Guidance on Signaling System …JD Supra Aug 28 14:10 Last week, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released a Public Notice (Notice) urging communications service providers to …

Get Those EAS Test Forms In, Advises Law FirmMultichannel News Aug 24 08:50 The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has also released the latest edition of the EAS Operating Handbook (available here) and …

Huawei and Telenor successfully trial Lean BCCH solutions in India to help offer affordable …Firstpost Aug 24 08:35 … scarcity, broaden the scope of Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) ecosystem and offer affordable mobile broadband services to customers.

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 24, 2017

Once A State Has Opted In. There still seems to be some confusion about how a state opting into FirstNet will impact the agencies within the state. AT&T has been awarded the FirstNet 25-year contract, a number of states have already opted in, and more are lining up to do so. Rivada is still trying to make a case for states to opt out and build their own Radio Access Network, and now Verizon is promising to build out a parallel network to compete and keep its existing agency customers. I am concerned about these activities not because I don’t believe Rivada or Verizon has the right to compete, but simply because in order for FirstNet to work as envisioned it has to be the dominant public safety broadband network.

FirstNet was envisaged as a nationwide dedicated public safety broadband network to help ease the interoperability issues the public safety community has faced for more than forty years. Incidents such as 9/11 and Katrina made us acutely aware of the need for a public safety communications system all first responders can use as they come together at incidents. The FirstNet law require any public safety agency within an opt-in state to switch to AT&T.

In fact, the law says that no agency has to sign up for any FirstNet services—ever. However, I am hopeful that over time the FirstNet/AT&T network will be expanded so there will be few if any differences in either real or perceived coverage with other commercial broadband networks. It is not realistic to believe FirstNet/AT&T can, today, provide complete coverage for all of the first responder agencies in a given state, or that other broadband networks fighting for the public safety business will prove beneficial for the public safety community and its city, county, and state governments. To be honest, my vision continues to be focused on one FirstNet—one network that can meet the requirements of the public safety community from coast to coast and border to border. Read the entire bloghere. Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 17, 2017

FirstNet or SecondNet? The Middle-Class Tax Relief Act of 2012 in the section known as Title VI created FirstNet and set out the rules for building a nationwide public safety broadband network and a public-private partnership in order to build the In 2012, Congress passed and the then President of the United States signed into law the Middle-Class network using mostly private rather than federal funding. After five long years, FirstNet issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) and three companies submitted proposals (Verizon Wireless was not one of these). After much deliberation and after two of the three companies were disqualified, the contract was awarded to AT&T.

This past week, Verizon came out of hibernation and declared it will also be building out a nationwide public safety broadband network with all the elements of a network with access to the FirstNet spectrum known as Band 14 (or as some old timers call it, the D Block) which is licensed by the FCC to FirstNet. This new Verizon “Public Safety Grade” network will include pre-emption for first responders on the Verizon LTE network and a Public Safety Evolved Packet Core (EPC) that will be separate from the current Verizon back-end system.

So now we have the approved FirstNet partnership with AT&T moving forward and the sleeping giant has suddenly awakened, looked around, and raised its hand. I have to say that as an early proponent of a nationwide a public safety broadband network that will provide full interoperability between all agencies regardless of where they are in the United States or its territories, I was really surprised and dismayed at Verizon’s attempt to hang on to a few million subscribers out of the 146 million it reported in April of this year, and its apparent lack of concern for creating more, not less, interoperability issues and challenges.

This is especially when Verizon could not be bothered to bid on the FirstNet RFP, stating publicly at the time that it had little interest in low-band spectrum either with the 600-MHz auction or the FirstNet spectrum since it believed spectrum higher in frequency would be more useful for small cell or 5G technology, on which it seemed to be betting the farm. Read the Full Blog Here Continue reading