AT&T, SBC Officials Highlight Joint In-Building Efforts
Tuesday, August 23, 2022 | Comments
Officials from AT&T and the Safer Buildings Coalition (SBC) detailed the organizations’ joint efforts to improve in-building coverage for first responders during the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International conference earlier this month.

SBC Managing Director John Foley said the SBC has three main pillars for in-building public-safety communications: mobile 9-1-1 calls and texts must get out with location accuracy, mobile mass notification must reach building occupants and first responder communications must work.

Foley said that one way to improve in-building coverage, in addition to investing in new technology, is by updating relevant policies to encourage cooperation from building developers and owners.

One such area that Foley highlighted was FCC rules on how a signal can be rebroadcast. When an in-building system is installed, it can’t always be turned on instantly. This is because under FCC rules, a signal can’t be rebroadcast, including by an in-building system, without permission of the license holder. So when a system is installed and approved by a fire code official, the owner may not be able to turn it on instantly unless prior approval from a spectrum licensee has been gathered. This can lead to delays in getting the system live.

“There must be a tight process between the fire official, the building owner and the radio administrator,” Foley said.

Another key element of improving in-building public-safety coverage is getting building owners to buy in and provide cellular in-building coverage in addition to mandated LMR coverage. One key way of this is showing building owners that the system can be leveraged for uses outside of public-safety coverage.

Foley noted that many building owners are required to install sprinklers as a fire precaution, and those sprinklers don’t provide additional value.

“How often in most buildings will a sprinkler be used?” he asked. “Zero.”

On the other hand an in-building system can be leverage for other uses outside of fire protection such as providing wireless service for building occupants, Foley said.

Stephen Devine, director of FirstNet strategy and policy at AT&T, highlighted the ways in which the company is working with SBC to improve in-building coverage through the FirstNet network.

The key focus of these efforts is bringing base stations into buildings to help bring FirstNet band 14 coverage into buildings. Under this model, a building owner and their partners determine the base station they need based on building size and coverage requirements.

The integrator on the project then works with approved base station vendors to procure a signal source. This in turn allows OEMs to provide base stations connected to the FirstNet core, Devine said. The integrator is also responsible for determining the best approach for the distributed antenna system (DAS) of the solution.

Overall, AT&T is aiming to have a process for providing in-building coverage within six week period of that first request, Devine said.

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