P25 CAP Transition Underway, Program Expansion Details Still Unknown
Wednesday, October 16, 2013 | Comments

The transition of the Project 25 (P25) Compliance Assessment Program (CAP) from one federal agency to another is underway, and the laboratory accreditation process will move to an industry third party. Although laboratory re-accreditation has been on hold during the transition, manufacturers are still testing products.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) created and launched CAP in 2010, and it is now being transitioned to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has funded the program through NIST. The assessment and accreditation responsibilities of NIST are moving to an industry-based process.

After receiving responses to a Federal Register notice inquiring about the interest of accreditation bodies to participate in this transition, DHS is preparing to take the final steps in the process. The third-party accreditation body will then oversee re-accrediting the current eight labs, all of which have been grandfathered into the new oversight body.

The DHS Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC) budget amount for P25 technology for fiscal-year (FY) 2014 is the same as FY 2013, said David Boyd, PhD, director of DHS Science & Technology (S&T) OIC.

“The plan in the beginning was that once we had matured this program and were comfortable it was doing the things what we wanted to do, that it would transition,” said Boyd.

P25 CAP remains a voluntary program that allows manufacturers to formally demonstrate their products’ compliance to P25 standards and will not substantively change once the transition is complete, officials said. DHS OIC continues to develop testing policy through Compliance Assessment Bulletins (CAB), and the P25 CAP continues to set policy on accreditation body participation requirements. Once the transition has occurred, testing laboratories accredited by signatories to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation Mutual Recognition Arrangement (ILAC MRA) will perform testing. Requirements under International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) 17025 remain unchanged, as do CAP program-specific technical requirements.

“The bar has not been lowered or raised for laboratories or products,” said Dereck Orr, a NIST program manager. “Fees for accreditation services and procedures for application, renewal and on-site scheduling will be set by the accreditation bodies,” he said. “DHS will continue to make test results available to the first response community on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS.gov) website.”

The labs are accredited for three years, and the current labs are about a year overdue for re-accreditation, but can continue to conduct tests until the new accreditation body is announced. “The first lab recognition that NIST did was free to manufacturers,” said John Oblak, EF Johnson vice president of standards and regulatory affairs. “I expect in the future, there will be a lab assessment fee, and the labs will be responsible for that fee.”

 EF Johnson operates one of the eight recognized CAP laboratories. The labs rate various features and components of each product. Suppliers declaration of compliance (SDoCs) forms detail standardized test reports, including the product tested, version tested, other vendor products that it was tested against and pass/fail results for each feature.

“We have been conducting tests all along the transition process,” Oblak said. “There are some tests in process right now. We continue to be active in the process. Our last two SDoCs were published Feb. 4, 2013.”

Motorola is the only vendor with more than one P25 CAP recognized P25 test labs. The vendor has two P25 CAP performance test labs and one P25 CAP trunked Phase 1 interoperability test lab.

 “Motorola Solutions continues to conduct P25 CAP testing,” said Gary Schluckbier, Motorola solutions senior director of ASTRO infrastructure product management. “The last time P25 CAP tests were performed was during the first quarter of 2013, but these labs are always available when testing is required.”

The program currently tests only the Common Air Interface (CAI). Inter RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) testing in the P25 CAP has been a requirement for equipment procured with federal grant money since March 5, 2011, but no ISSI CAP tests have been performed.

“Motorola’s P25 customers continue to express their interest in the P25 CAP testing program,” Schluckbier said. “For the P25 ISSI, the P25 CAP already has published test cases, but there is no DHS-recognized test lab for P25 ISSI testing. Once DHS defines its new P25 CAP Test Lab accreditation process, accredited P25 ISSI test labs will become available for P25 ISSI testing.”

Once the transition of the assessment and accreditation of laboratories has occurred, DHS could expand the overall scope of testing available, likely to include but not limited to conventional CAI interoperability testing, as well as conventional and trunked CAI conformance testing.

There are three stools to compliance testing: interoperability, conformance and performance. CAP tests only interoperability. Public-safety users in the past have asked for conformance testing but vendors balked, saying it’s unnecessary because conformance tests are already part of their product development processes.

“Conformance is what public safety wants us to look at,” Boyd said. “Conformance is a prioritization issue. We know the public-safety guys would like us to add that.”

Expanding the program to test other interfaces, such as the ISSI and P25 Phase 2, and to conformance testing requires funding and is dependent on future budgets, Boyd said.

“P25 customers continue to ask for more P25 features to be tested,” Schluckbier said. “To support their interest, Motorola believes the P25 CAP management should focus on two items: the P25 CAP ISSI testing program should be enabled with accredited P25 test labs as soon as possible, and the P25 CAP should develop the test cases required to start the process to add P25 Phase 2 TDMA testing to the P25 CAP program.”

“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to support this,” Boyd said. “We are convinced LMR will be with us for the foreseeable future. The public-safety broadband network will add some capability public safety needs, but it can’t by itself replace LMR. There are some things LMR does well that will be difficult to replicate in any kind of cellular networks.”

The website housing the SDoCs is here. More information on CAP is here. The list of accredited labs follows:

• Compliance Testing dba Flom Test Lab in Chandler, Ariz.

• EF Johnson Technologies in Irving, Texas

• Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications (PSCR) in Lynchburg, Va.

• Motorola ASTRO System Integration & Test Laboratory in Shaumburg, Ill.

• Motorola GP25 HEC-PITEC in Schaumburg

• Motorola P25 Performance CAI Subscriber Compliance Laboratory in Plantation, Fla.

• Tait Electronics Teltest Laboratories in Christchurch, New Zealand

• TIMCO Engineering in Newberry, Fla.

Editor’s Note: This article was written before the federal government shutdown began Oct. 1. How the lack of appropriations will affect P25 CAP is unknown at this time.

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