P25 CAP Advisory Panel Debates Next Steps with Vendors
Tuesday, May 10, 2016 | Comments
In its second meeting, the Project 25 (P25) Compliance Assessment Program (CAP) advisory panel (AP) members outlined next steps for the P25 interoperability program, sometimes disagreeing with vendors over the best way to move forward.

The advisory panel, announced late last year, is set to release a new set of compliance assessment bulletins (CABs), which are instructions on how the testing should be implemented. Vendors use the CABs when they test P25 equipment within the P25 CAP process.

The new CABs add conventional interoperability to the program, which has only tested trunked equipment in the past, and update test standards to the latest drafts of the P25 standards. The bulletins were distributed several times during the past 18 months for input.

Once the CABs are released, expected this month, the P25 CAP labs must be reaccredited and all products tested within a year. “One of our concerns with the one-year timetable is that it requires labs to be reaccredited, and then the vendor can work with the lab to test the products,” said Steve Devine, P25 program manager for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International. “So if it takes three months to accredit, there is then only nine months to test.

“As a solution, vendors can still test to the old CABs after the new CABs are out,” Devine said. “Eventually, however, vendors will have to test any new products to the new CABs, though within the 12-month time frame.”

AP members discussed testing various models of a radio to make it less cumbersome for manufacturers. If a vendor tested a full-featured device and ran it through every test and then released a model with fewer features, the product could still be covered under the full-featured device test because the vendor could show that a specific feature was tested but is not in this model. The goal is to ensure that any user agency reviewing CAP testing documents would understand the tests that were passed and the features in the radios that allowed for them to pass those specific tests.

However, exactly how specific models and features would be identified and documented was debated during the meeting with no clear resolution. “We don’t want the users going to 20 places,” said Sridhar Kowdley, program manager, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC). “We tell them to go to the suppliers’ declaration of compliance (SDoCs) documents, so it should be there.”

Only performance testing is currently conducted, and conventional interoperability testing is planned in the new CABs. Conformance is the third stool of complete compliance testing, but is not yet included. Some vendor representatives expressed concern about having to retest all equipment previously tested.

“Performance testing is a considerable amount of time and money,” said John Oblak with EF Johnson Technologies. “With all equipment in all bands, I am thinking that there are probably 12 or so products from EF Johnson, and it’s a considerable amount of effort to test hardware that hasn’t changed.”

Officials discussed some options, such as referring back to the appropriate SDoC that showed the performance testing had been done and then performing the conventional interoperability under the new CAB.

Andy Davis from Motorola Solutions said there is market value in having SDoCs for trunking products; however, there is a different value assessment for the Inter RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) and conventional equipment. “We’re not selling that much of either, so getting the CAB documentation isn’t going to affect the bottom line,” he said. An independent lab might be used for some tests to reduce expenses, he said.

AP member Morton Leifer with the city of Clarkstown, New York, said the essence of interoperability on 700 MHz channels is P25 conventional but other frequencies use FM analog.

Some vendor representatives said the program is voluntary, and the important thing is telling the user what was tested and whether the equipment passed. The SDoCs note whether a feature passed, failed or was unsupported. There is space available for details related to an unsupported answer.

Supplier executives also said there will be backups at the labs to retest all equipment. From an engineering perspective, a vendor would want to test everything, but from a business model perspective, the vendor might not.

There was also discussion about a vendor’s proprietary feature that goes against multi-manufacturer interoperability and the potential business case, along with a buyer’s responsibility to be an educated buyer. “As long as people will buy it, it will be sold,” said one vendor representative. “So don’t buy it if you don’t want to be stuck with a proprietary solution.”

“When we get to a situation where the proprietary feature subverts the intent of interoperability, we have a desire to keep our standards open,” Leifer said. “We need to keep the notion that this is a multivendor standards group.”

“You have to realize it is a two-way street,” said another vendor executive. “Groups have worked hard to educate users. There are a lot of entities that don’t care and go buy other things. You have to keep in mind it is not just manufacturers that create this playing field we’re on. There are users that contribute to this playing field.”

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Comments
On 5/12/16, Leon said:
Interoperability is a big word. For some a nice and fancy word.
Sometimes counties and towns cannot afford the very fancy equipment that is so feature packed that they don't need 80 of these fancy features. They then look elsewhere for equipment that is mission critical but more affordable. This unfortunately doesn't fit into the overall structure. This is where a first responder network must look for interoperability. Accommodate these counties and towns. Don't force people to purchase stuff that is too expensive with too many bells and whistles. Think like the man on the ground, not like the the guy who likes bells and whistles. Ask your customer what he needs. Don't tell him what he needs.

On 5/11/16, Steve Rauter said:
It would be nice to see if the Project 25 (P25) Phase 2 Common Air Interface (CAI) functionality Compliance Assessment Program (CAP) would be moved up in importance so we can have assurances between manufacturers that there is no "magic sauce" in one vendor's infrastructure that would prohibit brand-to-brand interoperability. With dual-dynamic mode operation and mixed fleets, it would offer some comfort to know that straight-up competitive bidding COULD be used for Phase 2 purchases with little worry of compatibility.

On 5/11/16, Sid Sanders said:
11 May 2016
I work for the only independent testing lab that is recognized to do Project 25 (P25) performance interoperability testing and have been doing it since the beginning of the Compliance Assessment Program (CAP).
With Motorola, Harris, Tait, EF Johnson and JVCKENWOOD having their own performance interoperability test labs, there is not enough business for one test lab, let alone four or five. We are planning on getting accredited to 17025 as long as the cost does not exceed $10,000. The history of this testing as a business for us is not very good. It went from $250,000 in 2010 to $0 in 2014. One or two performance test jobs a year is barely enough to maintain your skills. What will be the incentive to even offer this type of testing?


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