PSA Discovery Patterns News Summary for the Week

Thu Jul 14 20:00:39 2016

The annual APCO conference is only about a month away. It is being held in Orlando this year and the agenda looks as though it will be yet another great event, even if it is August in Florida! APCO seems to like hot, muggy climate locations in August, I bet they get a real bargain on the conference facilities.

This is the time when all of us who normally attend this conference start receiving emails and calls about setting up meetings with vendors or others who want to sit down and have a discussion. Since I am already receiving a number of such emails I thought I would use this weekly blast to say I will not be attending this year. There is one thing that conflicts with APCO that is more important to me, and that is my mother’s 99th birthday, which is on the Monday of the conference. So while most of you are in Orlando, Linda and I will be in Maine, enjoying time with my mother and my sister and her family. I will follow APCO closely and try and catch up with what I miss, and I am perfectly willing to have a conference call with anyone who wants to update me on their products or their latest news under NDA as always.

Wirelines Going Away

By the time this is distributed, the FCC Commissioners will have voted on several items that should be of interest to the Public Safety community. The first is how it envisions the transition from wired analog phone systems to all-digital systems. As the article I have highlighted indicates, this transition does not mean a move to all-fiber everywhere but in reality a combination of fiber, cable, and wireless to connect to all end points (customers). For Public Safety communications and IT folks the FCC’s passage of this measure should be your warning that all your wired radio circuits have a short life span. Dry contact wired point-to-point, T-1, and other radio circuits over wireline will be a thing of the past.

This means converting all of these circuits to something else. Fortunately, there are already ways to accomplish this with T-1 or 4-wire converters over radio, radio over IP and microwave circuits, and IP systems. Over the years I have worked with many Public Safety entities that have deployed a lot of dry contact wired circuits for satellite receivers, transmitters, alarms to fire stations, and much more. Many of these systems are already being upgraded but if your department has not begun to review your options, this new action by the FCC should indicate to you that it is more than time to do so.

Fortunately, this should not impact the FirstNet build-out. Since the backhaul needed is all broadband, the capacity of wireline circuits would not be sufficient for LTE backhaul. It will be interesting to see how this transition impacts all of our communications services going forward. Perhaps this is part of a perfect storm of broadband services for all since the advent of 5G means thousands of small cells needing a broadband connection. For me, the end of wireline also signals what I fear may be a degradation of our communications systems.

When the original Ma Bell (AT&T) built out the wired telephone network it had no competition, yet it built the most robust network that could be built, just as though it did have competitors. It chose to power the phones remotely from its central offices, making the phone system more robust during power outages. Over the years it implemented multiple, automatic routing for phone calls and pioneered the use of area codes for wider-area dialing. All of this before there was the break-up and competition between Bell companies. I have to wonder if a company was to build out a communications system today and had no competitors, would it end up being as robust as the AT&T network was and still is now?

I have written a number of blogs and commentaries over the past few years about what I believe is the danger of putting all our communications and entertainment capabilities on the Internet. If everything we do in our homes and offices is routed via the Internet–and no one I know believes the Internet is anywhere near a mission-critical network–I wonder if, at some point, someone, some country, or even a back-hoe will disrupt all of our communications except perhaps for our wireless devices. If the same fiber serving my home is also being used to feed the cell sites near me, I could lose my wireless connections as well.

This is one of the areas I will be touching on in my upcoming IWCE webinar. If FirstNet’s broadband network becomes the only network used by Public Safety for voice, text, video, and data, is there a greater danger of someone or something taking out the network in an area or region either by accident or on purpose? If that happens, how will the Public Safety community respond to incidents when its only network is not operational?

I believe in redundancy, in disparate forms of communications, and a variety of communications options. It is more unlikely for all these options to be disrupted at the same time. As we move forward into this broadband and all-IP world, will we lose some or all of that redundancy and, therefore, degrade our communications systems rather than strengthen them?

As I have been developing my webinar content I have come up with the following tagline for what I believe to be the circumstances when FirstNet might actually replace the LMR networks:

FirstNet will NOT replace LMR when Technologists Say It Is Ready
FirstNet MAY replace LMR when Public Safety Says It Is Ready!

Have a great weekend!


Upcoming Webinars

The next webinar is for IWCE/Urgent Communications and the title is: Transition from LMR to LTE. It will be held on July 28, 2016 at 2 pm EDT. This should be a fun webinar for me and I will be exploring both the co-existence and the transition of LMR and LTE.

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