Since we will be attending IWCE 2021 in Las Vegas all of next week, there will not be time to publish a September 30 issue. The Advocate will return the following week with a lot of news and information from the show—Next week, what happens at IWCE in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas!
The wireless community is cautiously returning to live events. APCO was held live in San Antonio and, according to reports, it was well-attended. However, the IACP yearly event that was to be held in person in New Orleans had to be canceled for two reasons. The first was that the Covid-19 epidemic is still not under control in New Orleans. The second reason was that while the convention could probably have been held with safety measures in place, hurricane Ida had other ideas and came ashore a few days before the conference was to start.
IWCE 2021 will be in-person as planned, but the technical symposium and awards dinner is yet another casualty of Covid. This annual event was originally scheduled to be in-person in Denver at the end of November, the week before Thanksgiving. After reconsideration, the Board of Directors decided that under the current circumstances, it will be strictly virtual. I plan to virtually attend the technical symposium and perhaps some of the other things on the agenda.
The IWCE yearly conference, usually held in the spring, was moved last year to September in hopes of being able to hold an in-person event but it had to be reformatted to be a virtual conference. Next week, IWCE will return to the Las Vegas Convention Center live and in-person.
Traditionally, Monday and Tuesday are reserved for longer, more in-depth panels and educational sessions with the exhibit hall opening Wednesday and Thursday. Panels held on these two days run shorter.
I will be attending the entire week and participating in four different panel discussions. The first one, “The Flavors of Interoperability,” will take place on Monday from 2:30pm to 5:30pm. This panel will be made up of a number of well-qualified people and it is obvious from our pre-panel phone discussion that several different views will be presented.
My discussion points will support my conviction that before we can achieve full interoperability, we need to solve the problem of the lack of operability across the FirstNet (Built with AT&T) broadband network. I believe nationwide Push-To-Talk (PTT) over FirstNet is the most important element of interoperability because push-to-talk will enable every agency to communicate with every other agency on the FirstNet network. As many of you know, I am skeptical that the 3GPP standard for push-to-talk will be a unifier for nationwide operability.
Then I will describe work being done by wireless companies to solve both push-to-talk operability and interoperability for video and other data forms including applications. Several weeks ago, I wrote about the lack of data interoperability and have since discovered that there are serious ongoing efforts to resolve interoperability issues we currently face and as we move toward interoperable Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems.
On Tuesday from 8:30am to 11:30am, I will take part in a panel that examines resiliency of networks including Land Mobile Radio (LMR) and FirstNet/broadband networks. “Resiliency” means different things to different people. I believe LMR resiliency and FirstNet resiliency have different qualities and should to be treated differently to reach the common goal of maximizing network hardiness and redundancy. In the afternoon, I hope to attend the Safer Buildings Coalition panel session from 2:30pm to 5:30pm.
There are a number of panels I would like to attend on Wednesday. My next panel, “Public Safety Spectrum Issues,” will start at 10:15am. I will discuss a number of issues including T-Band interference resulting from relocating TV stations; the 6-GHz microwave band and the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authorization for unlicensed Wi-Fi to operate alongside licensed users; and 4.9 GHz, which the last FCC basically took away from public safety. The Public Safety Spectrum Alliance (PSSA) has filed a number of comments and toward the end of 2020, it requested that the FCC issue a stay of the order that would allocate the spectrum to the states.
The current FCC voted to support the stay and has issued an advanced look at yet another Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which, if passed as written, would re-authorize the public-safety community’s access to 4.9-GHz.
I will wrap up my comments with a discussion of my belief that even with new spectrum being allocated in gigahertz-and-higher portions of spectrum, all public-safety spectrum is subject to influence from those who believe it is possible to share spectrum among multiple types of license holders. The public-safety community must be ever-vigilant, and I will once again call for the FCC to form a public-safety and critical-communications advisory committee to provide ongoing input to the Commission.
The last panel I will participate in is at the end of the day Thursday. “Microwave Matters” will delve into issues concerning licensed and unlicensed use of 6 GHz, which is currently used by many public-safety and critical-communications companies and organizations for microwave point-to-point links. The FCC has already authorized both indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi 6 unlicensed use across the entire 6-GHz band. This is in spite of the excellent tests that were conducted by the Energy Innovation Reform Project (EIRP) and Southern Company in Georgia that found even indoor Wi-Fi 6 can interfere with microwave systems. The FCC has published a Notice asking for comments about “automatic frequency control” systems that are intended to ensure Wi-Fi 6 channels permitted in given areas will not interfere with existing licensed microwave users.
We will also discuss FCC consideration of sharing the 12-GHz band, currently used for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, with the commercial community for 5G networks.
I will spend as much time as possible in the exhibit hall visiting with vendors and seeking out new products, applications, and technology approaches that will contribute to better communications for the public-safety community. I hope to also see more LMR/FirstNet devices ready for release or that will be introduced soon.
While I enjoy visiting with major exhibitors in larger booths, I especially like to walk the edges of the show floor to see what smaller vendors with smaller booths have to offer. These vendors often have great ideas that are destined to become successful products that will be of value to the public-safety and critical-communications communities.
I am really looking forward to IWCE next week. Like many of us, I have not been able to meet with friends and colleagues face-to-face for far too long because of the Covid virus. IWCE will be the first live event I will attend since February when I lost most of my ability to see. My vision has improved a bit in one eye and I now read large bold type and see well enough to recognize people and I will be able to understand new products being exhibited. This, along with my computer speaking to me and being able to dictate documents using Dragon, has enabled me to take care of most of my routine tasks once again.
Every evening of IWCE there are receptions and/or dinners hosted by a variety of organizations, groups, and companies. IWCE will host its own cocktail party on Wednesday evening at the Terrace located on the third floor of the Convention Center.
IWCE 2021 is being held in the new West Hall and I am curious to see all the changes that have been made to the Convention Center. I look forward to seeing many of you there and catching up. I will do my best in the Advocatefollowing IWCE to recap what I think were the most important panel discussions and exhibit-hall finds.
Until then, I hope to see many of you at IWCE in only a few days.
Andrew M. Seybold
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