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

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

Official: DHS Wants More “Robust’ R&D Cycle

The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate wants to improve its plans for conducting research to protect first responders, an official said today.

In opening remarks at a stakeholder summit of the International Forum to Advance First Responder Innovation (IFAFRI), Andre Hentz, acting deputy under secretary for S&T, said, “What we really want to do is develop a more robust and methodical R&D duty cycle that helps us better be stewards of the taxpayer dollars that we get to affect and drive down risks to first responders.”

“We need to be able to motivate and connect with industry and better help you guys understand what our true requirements are,” he added.

Speakers at today’s event discussed the need to (1) “know the locations of responders and their proximity to risks and hazards in real time”; (2) “detect, monitor and analyze passive and active threats and hazards at incident scenes in real time”; (3) “rapidly identify hazardous agent[s] and contaminants”; and (4) “incorporate information from multiple and non-traditional sources into incident command operations[.]”- Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

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

Ohio Police Department Launches APCO System

LAS VEGAS — The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International said today that the Union Township Police Department in Ohio “has launched the first live installation of APCO IntelliComm, a new configurable system designed to streamline the way emergency communications centers gather and process data in real-time from 9-1-1 calls while improving the guidance about the incident they provide to both the responder and the citizen in distress.” APCO made the announcement at its show here.

Courtesy TRDaily

AT&T Announces Emergency ‘Drop Kits’

LAS VEGAS — AT&T, Inc., today announced plans to deploy portable emergency “drop kits” that “will envelop first responders in a 300-foot ‘connected bubble,’ letting them maintain constant communication to better coordinate their response” during emergencies in rural and remote areas, and when communications are not available, such as in the wake of wildfires and hurricanes. AT&T, Inc., the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) network partner, developed the kits in collaboration with Sonim Technologies, Inc.

“This is a great example of how FirstNet is driving focused innovation for first responders,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president-FirstNet for AT&T. “To create the Emergency Drop Kits, we’re pulling in expertise from public safety and across the industry. The kits will make it even easier for first responders to stay connected to the full capabilities of their network — no matter where their mission takes them.” The drop kits were announced at the APCO 2018 show here.

Courtesy TRDaily

Denver Granted Waiver for 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 permit wireless carriers to participate in a wireless emergency alert (WEA) test being conducted by the city and county of Denver, Colo. (TR Daily, Aug. 3). The test is scheduled for Sept. 5 at 11 a.m. MDT, with a back-up date of Sept. 13 at the same time.

Courtesy TRDaily