Public Safety Advocate: IWCE 2022

We will be attending the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) trade show next week so there won’t be time to publish an issue of the Advocate. We will be back the following week and share our take on IWCE 2022.

Last September, IWCE held a “placeholder” conference. It was a good event with many great educational sessions, but the exhibit area was very small as was the crowd. Even so, IWCE 2021 was the best it could have been given the pandemic conditions at the time.

That Was Then

Now that it appears the worst of Covid 19 is behind us, this year’s annual IWCE is returning to its traditional spring timeframe. Judging from the number of vendors and the conference agenda, IWCE 2022 promises to live up to the reputation of previous IWCEs.

As I have said before, this is my favorite conference of the year. I find IWCE the most interesting because it is dedicated solely to communications with an emphasis on critical communications and public-safety communications. That is not to say I don’t attend other conferences, just not as many as I used to in any given year.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference has many communications-related booths, but they are interspersed with helicopters, cars, weapons of all types, uniforms, and more. Thus, it takes longer to find all the communications-related booths and sessions.

Many of my friends and business associates still attend the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO) conference and I used to attend no matter what. However, this is not the same conference it once was. APCO has changed its focus over the past five or so years and today it caters more to dispatch activities and personnel than communications. Though I miss the “old” APCO conference, it is fitting for there to be a conference that celebrates the dispatch side of public safety. Those who handle the calls are essential to public safety as are the services they provide. Dispatchers often go beyond what is expected of them to help both citizens and first responders.

When asked why I have been skipping APCO recently, I cite the differences between the two APCO chapters I belong to. The California Public-Safety Radio Association (CPRA), the Southern California Chapter of APCO, is what APCO used to be. CPRA is made up of all types of public-safety personnel, including many who are involved primarily in wireless communications along with some dispatch activities. The final reason for this is that the people who manage CPRA have helped shape public-safety communications for many years. The Arizona Chapter of APCO is actually a National Emergency Number Association (NENA)/APCO chapter and those elected to head this chapter are mostly from the dispatch side. The last time I attended an Arizona CPRA meeting there were exactly two of us who were involved in communications. I still retain my membership in APCO but I wish it could find some middle ground. I guess that means those now running APCO need to understand that this organization was built on communications for public safety. This is not to say dispatch should be excluded; it does say dispatch should be included with communications.

But I Digress

This year’s IWCE starts on Monday, March 21, and runs through March 24. As always, the first two days are sans exhibits and are devoted to longer conference sessions and educational courses. Wednesday and Thursday the show floor will be open and the conference sessions will be shorter. This year there will be plenty to choose from.

IWCE is back in the North Hall this year, which is good since most of us are familiar with that area of the now-huge Convention Center. Last September the conference was held in a new section of the Center. It was so new even cab and Uber drivers had trouble finding the right place to drop us off or pick us up.

There is a complete list of keynotes, panels, and exhibitors on the IWCE 2022 website. Meanwhile, I will highlight some of the panels I will be participating in and some I will be attending.

On Monday afternoon I want to attend the session called, “Success in the US Broadband PTT Market.” As many of you know, Push-To-Talk (PTT) is a critically important form of communications for both Broadband and Land Mobile Radio (LMR). Unfortunately, the session on High-Power Band 14 (HPUE or FirstNet® MegaRange™) is at the same time. There are so many sessions that it will be impossible to go to all the ones you really want to attend.

Starting at 2:30 p.m. Monday, l want to attend the panel entitled, “Not Just for LMR Any More, Making Critical Network Integrations Work.” There are a number of very qualified people on this panel including the Father of FirstNet, Chief Harlin McEwen (Ret), one of my favorite speakers.

After that, there is another panel entitled, “Best Practices and Lessons Learned from MCPTT Deployment” (Mission-Critical Push-To-Talk). I may attend this session but as many Advocate readers know, I have a lot of reservations about MCPTT and its future in the public-safety community.

It seems our old friend Murphy is once again sitting on my shoulder. You may remember that on February 22, 2022, there was a ten-year celebration of the creation of FirstNet, which many of us had been working on for a number of years even before it was signed into law. As it turned out, I was recovering from what was to be a simple surgery in Phoenix instead of celebrating with the others in Washington, D.C.

There will be another celebration at IWCE. The FirstNet Authority will be hosting a session on Wednesday starting at 10:15 a.m. running until 11:30 a.m. This session is entitled, “America’s Public-Safety Network at 10 Years: A FirstNet Retrospective.” Here is where Murphy makes his entrance. This session coincides with a panel I will be on. It looks like I will have to wait another ten years for the 20-year anniversary of FirstNet and take part in that celebration!

Panels I Will Participate In

Tuesday, 9:00 a.m. until Noon, Room N257
This session will be divided into THREE PANELS
One will discuss MCPTT and what proponents believe
The next panel will discuss “Over-the-Top” and “Unified PTT.” Of course, I will be on this one.
The third panel features a gentleman from the Pennsylvania Turnpike along with Motorola to inform us how the Turnpike is using Push-to-Talk.

Wednesday, 10:15 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., Room N260

Thursday, 1:00 p.m. until 2:30 p.m., Room N260
John Facella, President of the Radio Club of America, will Moderate.

Thursday, 2:30 p.m. until 3:45 p.m., Room N262
My final panel this year, which is the same as I took part in last September, is based on the recent FCC statement that licensed microwave users in the 6-GHz band will have to be pro-active to find devices causing interference from among millions of Wi-Fi 6 unlicensed devices spread throughout the 6-GHz band. I find it ludicrous that the spectrum license holders may have to bear the cost of finding interfering Wi-Fi 6 devices, and then what? Only the FCC can shut down an interfering device and, as we know, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has been decimated.

In addition to the panels I want to sit in on and panels I will be taking part in, I hope to be able to spend time on the show floor Wednesday and Thursday. I will be looking for new FirstNet-ready devices, perhaps some new drones with built-in onboard wireless, and even some of the hyped LMR/FirstNet devices. I also look forward to seeing many of you at the show.

Winding Down

Last week, an AT&T executive stated that FirstNet has become a $1.7 Billion market segment for AT&T. I am sure that after that announcement, in a number of C-suites and at several Board of Directors meetings, there was some noshing of teeth in companies that had not bid on the FirstNet Request For Proposal (RFP). One company I am familiar with said it was only interested in short-term profit-making opportunities, while another company told me directly that it liked having federal customers but would never partner with the Federal Government. And I am certain there are other companies that decided not to bid for one reason or another.

I am pleased that FirstNet has grown and become a nice chunk of AT&T’s business, but more than that, I am delighted that it has taken less than five years to be up and running. More than 19.5K+ public-safety agencies have signed on with more than 35+ million users, and FirstNet continues to grow every month.

It took a long time to convince those in Washington, D.C. that FirstNet was needed, and there were many skeptics who said a private/public partnership of this magnitude would never work or would become bogged down.

Even so, the FirstNet Authority and then AT&T stepped up to the bar and made it happen. Today, we should all be proud to see the network up and running and helping public-safety personnel every day of the week across the United States. We should also be pleased that, as we promised, FirstNet did not have to go back to Uncle Sam for more funding. It is truly self-sustaining.

There still are many people pushing tirelessly to make FirstNet a reality. Without the direction of the FirstNet Authority and the great organization AT&T put together to build and operate FirstNet, none of this would have happened this quickly.

There is more to do, but I believe all those who set out on this journey so long ago, aided by those who have joined the teams, will continue to ensure FirstNet remains THE Nationwide Public-Safety Broadband Network.

Back in two weeks…

Andrew M. Seybold
©2022, Andrew Seybold, Inc.


1 Comment on "Public Safety Advocate: IWCE 2022"

  1. John Contestabile | March 17, 2022 at 3:43 pm | Reply

    See you out at IWCE Andy! I will be moderating a session on Thursday afternoon….stop on by!

    “The Ways that Software as a Service (SaaS) Saves Critical Communications Agencies”
    Panelists: Bryan Wiens (Sr. Product Manager, InterTalk Critical Information Systems)
    James Potter (Sr Manager of Strategic Partnerships for the Public Safety and Professional Communication, L3Harris)
    Christy Williams (Director of 9-1-1, North Central Texas 9-1-1)
    John Contestabile (Director, Public Safety Solutions, Skyline Technology Solutions)
    Date: Thursday, March 24
    Time: 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm

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