Fri Jul 29 13:53:55 2016
On July 28, 2016, I presented a webinar for IWCE/Urgent Communications entitled, “The Transition from LMR to LTE.” I have to admit if I had been choosing the title it would probably have been, “Will There Be…” The webinar was well attended, which shows how much interest there is in this topic. I have received a list of questions asked during the webinar that went unanswered due to the lack of time and I will answer them as I can find the time. I am told that my slides in PDF format will be made available on the IWCE Urgent Communications site. In the meantime, they wrote an article about the event and it can be accessed here: http://urgentcomm.com/public-safety-broadbandfirstnet/decision-lmr-lte-migration-mission-critical-voice-should-be-made-pub.
I tried my best not to make this a technical webinar but more a presentation of my views of how FirstNet will be used for “Mission-Critical Push-To-Talk” by first responders and when and IF it will become the only Public Safety network. If and when it does become the only network Public Safety feels it needs, those in the federal government who want to find more spectrum to auction will look at the LMR spectrum and think it can simply be cleared of Public Safety and put on the auction block where it will be sold to the highest bidder. There are only a few things wrong with that premise:
First, spectrum below about 500-MHz is not really well suited for mobile broadband services. The antennas are too long and the devices would have to be too large.
The next issue is that the spectrum currently used by Public Safety in the 30-50, 150-174, and 450-470 bands are not exclusive to Public Safety, a number of different types of users are intermingled in the same spectrum bands. These include business and industrial users, alarm companies, many inbuilding systems, transportation, utility, and other organizations that will continue to need that spectrum for an unknown period of time.
The idea of having a single, nationwide network for Public Safety is appealing to many, especially those who are trying to solve the Public Safety interoperability issues of the past 30-plus years. However, there are some down sides that must be considered. If FirstNet is the only Public Safety network in a given area and it goes down due to an act of nature, cyber-attack, terrorist attack, or even an attack by a backhoe, how does the entire Public Safety community continue to function and coordinate its activities? This is the main reason I am not a proponent of providing one and only one network for Public Safety communications across the nation.
During this webinar I referred to a statement I have made multiple times. “FirstNet will NOT replace LMR when the technologists say it is ready. However, FirstNet MAY replace LMR when the Public Safety community says it is ready to trust lives and all of its communications requirements to it.” Digressing a little, I have written a similar commentary or two about the dangers of John Q Public rushing to cancel all of their voice, TV, and other services in favor of a single Internet connection.
As I pointed out, the standards body, the 3GPP, with the help of the PSCR folks in Boulder, Co, have completed work on a number of new standards that will help make FirstNet a more robust network. They are designed to provide more in the way of continuing operation during times of network degradation. However, at the moment these are standards not proven in the field and not yet implemented. I am sure they will be but there remains the issue of timing.
We now know there are three bidders for the FirstNet partnership: Rivada, pdvWireless, and the latest to make an announcement, AT&T. Each of these bidders has partners, some of which are known, some of which we can guess, but what we don’t know is who is on who’s team, and if there are any other bidders. Meanwhile, FirstNet is really gearing up and November, when we are supposed to learn who becomes the selected partner, is not that far away.
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