Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 15, 2018

FirstNet the Authority and More.  With AT&T beating every due date, dealing with its coverage issues head-on, and deploying Band 14 ahead of schedule, not to mention certifying new FirstNet-approved devices, sometimes we forget FirstNet is the most important public/private partnership this nation has ever seen. When Congress formed FirstNet in 2012, it became an independent authority under the auspices of the National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA), which is a part of the Department of Commerce. FirstNet the Authority, as it has become known, was responsible for putting together the FirstNet request for proposal, distributing it, and making the award. Even with the delays caused by others, it shepherded the request through to a successful conclusion and awarded the FirstNet contract to AT&T.

Since then, the focus for public safety has been on FirstNet (Built by AT&T) and not so much on FirstNet the Authority although it continues to play many important roles going forward including being the final authority on how well AT&T is doing against the deliverables established both in the RFP and in the final contract. FirstNet the Authority still has a large staff of qualified people working with federal, state, and local agencies to ensure they fully understand the importance of joining FirstNet (Built by AT&T) and how to go about it. It is the checks and balances organization that, if AT&T strays from the goals set up in the contract (which to my knowledge it has not done) FirstNet the Authority has the clout to ensure AT&T gets back on track.

It is easy to see exactly how engaged both FirstNet the Authority and its board of directors have remained throughout the process. Its last meeting was held August 13, 2018, after the APCO show. Each committee reported to the board on activity that impacts FirstNet. Fiscal highlights for 2018 include that AT&T earned a sustainability payment of $5.5 billion, and the Authority was once again given a clean bill of health by the Inspector General (IG) in his report. This makes five years in a row the IG passed the Authority with high marks. Furthermore, the finance committee reported it met the financial requirements of FirstNet while staying under budget, perhaps one of a very few government-related agencies that does stick to its budget. During 2019, it appears as though funds will be made available for independent validation and verification of the public safety network coverage, which is an important task.  Read the Entire Post Here. Continue reading

FCC Seeks Comment on NTIA WPS Petition

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau sought comment today on a petition for rulemaking filed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration recently asking the agency to revise its wireless priority service (WPS) rules, including by permitting some WPS users to preempt non-911 calls and by expanding WPS availability to non-voice services (TR Daily, July 10). Comments are due Aug. 28 and replies Sept. 7 in WT docket 96-86.

Courtesy TRDaily

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 9, 2018

APCO and FirstNet.  The busiest booth at the APCO conference in Las Vegas was by far the FirstNet booth. There was plenty of great activity on the show floor, but the exhibit area was smaller than in previous years simply because APCO has changed over the 30-plus years I have been a member. It is now much more of a dispatch/PSAP-focused organization. To be sure, those who run and work in Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and dispatch centers are vital to the world of public safety, but APCO’s roots were broadly based on communications in the field, from the dispatch center out.

Both the exhibit floor and the comments I heard while walking it reflect this change. Yes, Motorola, Harris, JVCKenwood/EFJohnson, and Icom were still there with their booths and products but many of the Land Mobile Radio (LMR) vendor companies are no longer showing their wares at APCO. FirstNet and companies that are FirstNet partners were there in place of these vendors. In the FirstNet booth there were demonstrations from Sonim, Sierra Wireless, Cradlepoint, ESChat, RapidDeploy, and more. Time and time again those who were exhibiting told me they did not think anyone walking the floor had purchase decision-making authority.

Unlike in the past, there were only a few tower, antenna, and LMR-associated companies. Several times I was asked why the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), the 911 organization, and APCO don’t simply merge and be done with it. APCO has changed and if it was not for FirstNet as a major sponsor, I am not sure the show could survive. The focus of APCO is now more dispatch and PSAP-oriented but I was not blown away by Next-Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) vendors on the show floor either. NG911 is the next big thing to happen to public safety communications after FirstNet. In reality, the two should have been planned and executed together since both NG911 and FirstNet are based on broadband technologies. However, the feds only saw fit to dribble out a little funding to NG911 and many of the states are still skimming 911 revenue off for their own, non-911 use. Read the Entire Post Here. Continue reading

FCC Announces LED Consent Decrees

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau released an order today in file no. EB-SED-17-00024695 implementing a consent decree with Lighthouse Technologies Ltd. resolving a probe into whether it marketed LED signs without required equipment authorizations.

The company admitted the behavior and will pay a $115,000 fine. Separately, the bureau released an order in file no EB-SED-17-00024689 on an LED consent decree with Absen, Inc., that calls for the company to admit its behavior and pay a $55,000 fine for marketing LED signs “without the required equipment authorization, labeling, and user manual disclosures, and by failing to produce certain required test records.”

Courtesy TRDaily


Public Safety Spectrum, Technological Change Discussed

LAS VEGAS — A session at the APCO 2018 show here yesterday afternoon on FCC developments related to public safety evolved into a discussion of public safety spectrum and technological developments that may enable commercial operators to share frequencies with agencies.

During the discussion, Jeff Cohen, APCO’s chief counsel and director-government relations, said that until relatively recently, public safety and commercial spectrum were separate and were treated differently given public safety’s role in protecting Americans. Now, there is more interest in reallocating public safety frequencies for commercial use or in enabling sharing, he noted.

Public safety spectrum has been targeted for sharing or reallocation in the 4.9 gigahertz and 6 GHz bands and in the T-band (470-512 megahertz).

“Public safety is special,” said David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. But he added that “spectrum policy … needs to allow technology to drive change.”

Spectrum that once was not seen as useful is now being eyed for use thanks to technological developments, “and I think public safety can benefit from that,” Mr. Furth said.

“I think we need to be careful about siloing public safety spectrum policy too much,” he added. “At the same time, we need to make sure that if we’re going to rely on … commercial spectrum users to support public safety, that it be done in a way that serves public safety interests.”

In the 4.9 GHz band, where the FCC is mulling whether to allow commercial operators to share the spectrum or to reallocate the channels to operators. But Mr. Furth said that similar issues will arise “more broadly. Everybody that uses spectrum, I think, has an obligation to use it efficiently. It is a scarce resource.”

An audience member, David Buchanan, a public safety veteran who has worked on spectrum management issues with the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council, asked, “What are the limits?”

“At some point, physics has got to drive this whole thing. You can’t just keep cramming people in,” said Mr. Buchanan, who helped organize NPSTC’s comments in the FCC’s 4.9 GHz band proceeding.

“The answer to the question of what is technically feasible and what is technically feasible at an affordable cost has changed,” Mr. Furth replied. “So what we don’t want to do is come up with an answer that sort of stops that progress in its … tracks.”

He added that while “the laws of physics are the laws of physics, and you can’t break them,” parties should not assume that a new spectrum arrangement is not technically feasible.

“It’s a balance. There are tradeoffs when you’re talking about interference, when you’re talking about sharing spectrum. There are always tradeoffs,” Mr. Furth added. “And we have to candidly and realistically assess what they are. … I think we’ve been pretty successful so far.” Continue reading

FCC Approves Another EAS, WEA Test

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released an order today in PS dockets 15-91 and 15-94 granting a limited waiver to the Sonoma County, Calif., Fire and Emergency Services Department to conduct a combined live Emergency Alert System (EAS) and end-to-end wireless emergency alert (WEA) test on Sept. 12.

Courtesy TRDaily

Wireless Carriers Propose 911 Z-Axis Standard

The four nationwide wireless carriers have proposed a z-axis, or vertical, accuracy standard for indoor 911 location accuracy, although they stressed shortcomings of testing that has occurred and stressed that “further testing is needed to validate and confirm performance expectations of Z-axis solutions for live wireless 9-1-1 calling environments.”

The carriers proposed “a Z-axis metric of +/- 5 meters for 80% of fixes from mobile devices capable of delivering barometric pressure sensor-based altitude estimates.”

The z-axis accuracy standard proposal from the carriers was required by a 911 location accuracy order adopted by the FCC in 2015 (TR Daily, Jan. 29, 2015). The FCC will now consider what standard to adopt.

In the order, the FCC said carriers will have to deploy either dispatchable location or z-axis technology in the 25 most populous cellular market areas (CMAs) within six years, and will have to deploy either dispatchable location or z-axis technology in the 50 most populous CMAs within eight years. Non-nationwide carriers that serve these markets will get an additional year to deploy.

The carriers have worked since 2015 to conduct testing of 911 location accuracy technologies through a test bed administered by a nonprofit entity, 9-1-1 Location Technologies Test Bed LLC, established by CTIA on behalf of the carriers. Vertical location solutions were tested in Stage Z of the testing. The solutions of NextNav LLC and Polaris Wireless, Inc., were tested in that stage.

“The results of Stage Z demonstrate that it is challenging to identify a Z-axis metric that can be consistently replicated in a live 9-1-1 calling environment with only two technology vendors participating in this round of Z-axis testing, under somewhat artificial conditions,” a 134-page report on the testing concluded. “Consistent with the FCC’s Fourth Report & Order (para. 4 and 170), the proposed Z-Axis metric must be vendor-neutral and achievable across the entirety of carrier networks within the timeframe prescribed by Commission rules. Going forward, the Test Bed can be made available to administer additional rounds of Stage Z testing for Z-axis technology vendors interested in participating.” Continue reading