Tech Talk: Chennai, India 3GPP Meeting Recap

April 23, 2018
By Dean Prochaska, Director of Standards, First Responder Network Authority

This blog post is part of the “Tech Talk” series focused on the FirstNet Authority’s standards development activities to support the public safety community needs.  This post recaps discussions linked to public safety and other related topics from the 3GPP Plenary meetings that were conducted from March 19-23, 2018 in Chennai, India.  The First Responder Network Authority (“FirstNet Authority”) represented public safety interests at the plenary meetings.

In the FirstNet Authority’s ongoing effort to keep you informed regarding standards development activities impacting public safety, and following our recent update on the December plenary meetings in Portugal, this blog discusses the latest developments from the 3GPP plenary meetings held in Chennai, India from March 19-23, 2018. The March quarterly meetings addressed standards in several areas relevant to the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) during three separate plenary group meetings.

The Radio Access Network (RAN) Plenary— During the RAN plenary meetings, more than 340 global registrants worked tirelessly on all outstanding work items to ensure completion of 5G specifications. As you may recall from our last blog, the Stage 3 specifications for Non-Standalone 5G New Radio (NR) (NR working with legacy 4G core network) were completed in December 2017.

Considerable time was spent discussing the timeline for the development of specifications to support the already agreed upon 5G Standalone architectural options. These architecture options consist of combinations of LTE or NR connecting with Next Generation (NG) core networks using a single mode radio. This work remains on schedule for completion by June 2018*.

During the meeting, discussion also took place around standardization for additional non-standalone architectural options. These options allow both NR and LTE working together with a 5G Core, but it will require a dual mode radio.  The development plan for these options was agreed upon and the work will be completed by December 2018*.

Release 15 is in the final stages of completion and the requirements drafting for Release 16 has already begun.  While 5G NR is developing fast, it is important to keep in mind that considerable resources will be spent on further enhancing LTE and its features. In other words, LTE will continue to evolve in Release 16 to offer valuable upgrades of services such as:

  • Uplink enhancement for fixed wireless links
  • Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT)/enhanced Machine Type Communications (eMTC) enhancements
  • Extreme long-range coverage
  • Further enhancements for aerial vehicles

The Core Network and Terminals (CT) Plenary – The CT Plenary meeting included over 130 global registrants.  The meeting focused on the progress of Release 15 work items, and although the primary focus was 5G, work items related to public safety were included.  For example, the Stage 3 work for Release 15 enhancements on Mission Critical Push-to-Talk (MCPTT), Mission Critical Video (MCVideo), and Mission Critical Data (MCData) is in progress with varying degrees of completion.  Release 15 also includes the new item on interworking with legacy Land Mobile Radio (LMR), but since Stage 2 for this project was extended by three months, no work has occurred in Stage 3 yet.  CT continues to have challenging schedules and resource constraints, so we are working closely with our standards counterparts to ensure that steady progress continues on public safety work.

The Service and System Aspects (SA) Plenary—With 175 global registrants, the SA Plenary meeting mostly focused on early progress for Release 16 work items.  Since the major push to complete 5G is behind us, SA is returning to a more normal workload with a wide variety of new initiatives and improvements being worked on across all committees.  Since Release 16 is just beginning, there was much discussion this week on coordination with other Technical Specification Groups (TSGs), particularly RAN, to ensure that all aspects of system level features are included in each TSG’s release planning.

We are pleased to report that remaining work on the Stage 2 (architecture development) technical specification describing the architecture for interworking between MCPTT and legacy LMR systems was completed and approved.  As you may recall, this project was granted an exception at the last plenary meeting to continue the work for a few more months, and the extension allowed delegates to complete all planned Release 15 Stage 2 work.  However, since Stage 3 (protocol development) is getting a late start, it will be challenging to complete all work on the suite of LMR interworking specifications by the original target date of June 2018.  We’ll report on progress in our next blog.

Work also continued on re-naming the current Mission Critical specifications to remove the limiting “over LTE” wording so existing specifications can be reused for 5G and future generations.  Renaming of Stage 1 specifications was completed at the last plenary meeting, and work on Stage 2 Mission Critical specifications has now started with some initial changes completed on titles and references.  This work will continue since Stage 2 contains more detailed technical design specifications that will take more time to evaluate and modify to generalize beyond LTE.

In addition, new Stage 2 studies have commenced on enhancing both location services and the IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) architecture for 5G.  These two study items are important to address public safety needs for location-based services as well as to improve the IMS core performance, a key element in the Mission Critical Services architecture.

*This date implies the completion of 3GPP Stage 3 specifications. Typically, Abstract Syntax Notation 1 (ASN.1), a broader standards document language describing the message protocol formats, will take an additional three months from Stage 3 completion.

Source: FirstNet Blog

FirstNet Touts Benefit of Network at Boston Marathon

First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) officials today touted the benefit of employing the public safety broadband network being built by AT&T, Inc., at the recent Boston Marathon, particularly compared to the event five years ago that was marred by deadly bombings. The earlier race saw commercial wireless networks overwhelmed and first responders did not have the broadband offerings available now.

FirstNet officials mentioned the marathon as they and AT&T representatives today continued to hail what they said were the reasons that public safety agencies should subscribe to the FirstNet system rather than alternatives. For example, they stressed that AT&T’s dedicated public safety core used hardware that was separate from the rest of its network, the security of the system, and the 25-year public-private partnership between FirstNet and AT&T that calls for FirstNet to provide governance over AT&T as the network is built and maintained.

Verizon Communications, Inc., is offering a competing public safety broadband offering that also offers priority and preemption, although it does not use separate hardware for the public safety core. Verizon spokesman Kevin King has said that the carrier built its “core on dedicated resources, but it would be foolish to not embrace software defined networking (SDN) and other technologies designed to future-proof network development and enhance operations for public safety customers.”

“During this year’s marathon, the First Responder Network Authority (First Responder Authority) team and AT&T were on hand to distribute 80 FirstNet devices to fire, police and incident response teams from the cities of Boston and Brookline. Thirty of these phones were outfitted with SIM cards and connected to the dedicated FirstNet core,” Michael Varney, FirstNet’s Region 1 lead, said in a blog posting today. “First responders participating in the demonstration used FirstNet-ready devices with push-to-talk and land mobile radio integration applications. These first responders also had an opportunity to test out FirstNet’s core that operates with physically separate hardware and is built as a highly secure, resilient, and redundant network. The core is what distinguishes FirstNet from other commercially available networks that can become overloaded and useless during large-scale events.”

“In addition, fire and police used location tracking applications with new capabilities for coordination response efforts to track personnel and resources,” Mr. Varney added. “For the first time, the Boston Fire Department were able to see the exact position of individual responders displayed on screens in their communications center and mobile command units. Commanders knew which responder was closest to an incident and made real-time decisions to dispatch the closest responder saving valuable time.  Similarly, the Boston Police Department used the tracking software to pinpoint the lead runners in all major race categories. From a public safety perspective, tracing the fastest runners proved valuable for making decisions about crowd control and street closings.”

FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth cited the marathon public safety coverage in remarks this morning at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International’s Public Safety Broadband Summit.

He stressed that FirstNet would continue outreach to public safety, “and we’re going to advocate for them” to AT&T and others to ensure that the network met their needs over time. He noted that 17 devices had been certified on the network and an apps ecosystem had been launched.

“Were going to need everyone working together to make it possible,” Mr. Poth said.

During a subsequent session, Alex Rafii, federal manager for AT&T’s FirstNet program, worked to sell the benefit of the system over other choices, as did David Buchanan, FirstNet’s director-public safety advocacy.

AT&T says that it has activated about 60,000 connections on the network for nearly 650 agencies in 48 states.

“Our sole responsibility is to advocate for public safety,” including passing along input for network enhancements, Mr. Buchanan said. He also said FirstNet, as a government-created entity, is uniquely positioned to engage with other nations, standards bodies, tribal entities, and federal partners. Since Jan. 1, he said, it has been involved in more than 400 engagements that reached more than 20,000 stakeholders.

During another session, Scott Agnew, assistant vice president for AT&T’s public sector, outlined FirstNet’s apps ecosystem. He said that while users on the network could use apps from commercial stores, those available in the FirstNet app store would be certified as secure. More than a dozen apps have gone through the certification process, he said. Hundreds of apps developers have signed up so far, Mr. Agnew added. Only FirstNet subscribers have access to the FirstNet apps store. —Paul Kirby,

FirstNet Vice Chairman Joined Sonim Board Last Summer

First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson joined the board of directors of Sonim Technologies, Inc., last summer, although the appointment was not announced until last week, Sonim President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Plaschke told TR Daily today. Mr. Johnson’s resignation from the board was announced over the weekend.

Mr. Plaschke said that Sonim and Mr. Johnson consulted with legal staff at the Commerce Department before Mr. Johnson joined the board to ensure that it was permitted. They were told it was under certain conditions.

Sonim’s general counsel had two conversations with a Commerce Department ethics lawyer and was told that the appointment could proceed as long as FirstNet had no contractual relationship with Sonim, Mr. Johnson received “reasonable” compensation as a board member, and he recused himself if the board ever discussed Sonim specifically, according to Mr. Plaschke. Sonim is a vendor to AT&T and does not have a contractual relationship with FirstNet. Mr. Plaschke declined to say how much Mr. Johnson was paid to serve on the board. Continue reading

FirstNet Vice Chairman Johnson Resigns from Vendor Board

First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson has resigned from the board of directors of Sonim Technologies, Inc., a public safety device maker, shortly after the company announced the appointment.

“Today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced that FirstNet Board Vice Chairman Jeff Johnson has resigned from his position as a member of the board of Sonim Technologies,” NTIA said in a statement released Saturday. “While he consulted with ethics officials before joining the board of Sonim, and received guidance on the proper recusals, Mr. Johnson determined that FirstNet’s mission would best be served by his resignation in order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. We thank Mr. Johnson for his service and dedication to FirstNet.”

NTIA, at which FirstNet is housed, declined to provide details on specifics on recusal guidance provided to Mr. Johnson and whether NTIA believes that, in retrospect, the ethics guidance he was given was lacking. FirstNet declined to comment and Mr. Johnson, who is chief executive officer of the Western Fire Chiefs Association, and FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson did not respond to e-mails from TR Daily seeking comment.

On Thursday, Sonim issued a press release announcing the appointment of Mr. Johnson and two others to the company’s board. Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, April 19, 2018

Continue reading

FirstNet Seeks Expressions of Interest for Board

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is seeking expressions of interest to serve on its board. They must be postmarked or e-mailed to by May 21. “One of the 12 appointments of nonpermanent members to the FirstNet Board, expiring August 2019, is currently vacant,” noted a “Federal Register” notice issued by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration today on behalf of FirstNet.

“Additionally, four of the 12 appointments of nonpermanent members to the FirstNet Board expire in August 2018, creating a total of five available appointments to the FirstNet Board.”

Courtesy TRDaily


Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, April 12, 2018

Batteries in the Field:  When we add smartphones and tablets to the mix of public safety communications devices we are adding yet another set of devices that run on batteries that need to be recharged. While there are a number of companies working on charging these devices from the radio energy that is transmitted from a cell site, which could make recharging a non-issue, that appears, once again, to be well into the future. In the meantime, how are these devices to be charged along with the Land Mobile Radio (LMR) handheld radios?

Comparing LMR to LTE Devices:  LMR devices are generally designed for battery life of over a shift, which is ten hours or so. But this is with a duty cycle that is generally light. The norm is 80-percent standby (lowest power requirement) to 10-percent receive (mid-power requirement) and 10-percent transmit (highest power usage). The batteries for LMR radios are removable and replaceable and can be run through a “fast charge” system to replenish them in short order. There are also what are known as “clam-shell” battery cases that are designed to be used with disposable batteries, usually a number of AA cells. During major wildland fires when the forest services issue their cache of radios, they are mostly powered by throw-away cells. The batteries used in LMR radios are usually on the bottom of the radio, are easy to take off, and have a lot more battery capacity than batteries that are not removable.

There are a number of different scenarios for LMR radio distribution. In police departments, most LMR handhelds are staged in gang chargers and as patrol officers exit the station for a shift they will grab a radio and sometimes a spare battery for use on their shift and then replace the units in the charger at the end of their shift. In the fire service, since there are normally four assigned to an engine, radios are sometimes in chargers near one of the engine’s rear doors and are picked up as needed when arriving on a scene. Most EMS personnel have radios issued to them at the start of each shift. Of course, there are many variations of this including some departments where the LMR handheld is the only radio each person carries. Read the Entire Post Here Continue reading