AT&T, FirstNet Officials Detail Public-Safety LTE Priority, Pre-emption Capabilities
Wednesday, June 14, 2017 | Comments
AT&T and First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) officials detailed aspects of the priority and pre-emption capabilities for the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) during a panel at the 2017 Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting.

For public-safety users, AT&T will provide quality of service (QoS), priority and pre-emption (QPP). Public-safety users will be divided into two tiers: primary and primary extended, said Salim Patel of the AT&T architecture and planning team for FirstNet.

The solution will be multiband and provide public safety with priority on all bands of the network, not just band 14, Patel said.

Patel detailed four aspects of the network that will provide QPP for public-safety users. They include the following:
• Access class barring. Public-safety users will have a special access class and be exempt from throttling and barring.
• High-priority access flag. Public-safety users will receive priority treatment in various call setup stages.
• Traffic management. Non-public-safety traffic will be offloaded from band 14 to other bands during high loads.
• Admission control. Primary users will have a higher priority level and the ability to pre-empt other users.

Primary users will include firefighters, police officers and EMS and will be the only network users who can actually pre-empt another user on the network, Patel said. While primary extended users will not have pre-emption capabilities, they will still have priority status on the network.

There will also be a difference in pricing between the two levels of priority, said FirstNet Chief Customer Officer Rich Reed.

One conference attendee expressed concern about the differentiation between the two types of public-safety users and noted that there are public-safety personnel in his state who don’t fall into those three disciplines who would be considered primary.

Reed responded that giving every network user pre-emption could limit the effectiveness of the network.

“If everyone has pre-emptive capability, it’s going to complicate the network,” he said.

However, nothing is set in stone yet, Reed added. Later this month, FirstNet and AT&T plan to release state plans for review. States will then have 45 days to offer comments and feedback on the plans. That would be an ideal time to bring up concerns about other users who might need primary capabilities, Reed said.

In addition to the three basic levels of priority, there will be a special incident management level priority that will allow a specific user to be lifted above other traffic for a specific period of time, Patel said. This will be a manual form of priority that users can provision through an incident management portal that AT&T is setting up.

Several attendees wondered about training for use of the incident management portal and if it could be rolled into existing training programs. FirstNet Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Jeff Brachter said that FirstNet would work with its Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) and other public-safety partners to integrate that information into existing programs such as communications unit leader (COML) training.

Another attendee wondered whether band 14 support would be built out across the nation.

“We are committed to band 14 deployment,” Reed said. “The extent of that will be based on a lot of factors, and those will be outlined in the state plans for the first five years of the deployment.”

Beyond that initial five-year deployment, FirstNet and AT&T will continue to improve and build out coverage and other capabilities, Reed added. “We’re going to evolve this network over the next 25 years.”

Brachter noted in his opening comments that FirstNet expected the first band 14 access to turn up sometime early next year, possibly around March.

Other updates and discussion items during the panel included:
• Certification of band 14 devices should begin soon. AT&T is working on developing requirements for those devices and will release those requirements soon, Patel said. Motorola Solutions said in a statement this week that one of its devices has been certified for the AT&T network, although a band wasn’t specified.
• The public will not have access to the state plans. Access through the state plans portal will be limited to individuals designated by each state’s single point of contact (SPOC). There will be a public side of the state plans portal that users can access for general information on the network, Reed said. Some states are concerned about the terms of use document FirstNet is asking state officials to sign for access to the portal. No mention of the terms of use document was made during the panel.
• FirstNet and AT&T are ready and willing to compete with others in the public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) marketplace. One attendee noted that a competitor had already approached his agency with a proposal and wondered if AT&T was willing to compete. Reed responded that AT&T and FirstNet see competition as good for public safety, and the two organizations plan on winning that competition.
• There is no specific policy on devices as long as a device can support the capabilities of the network and is on the list of approved devices for the network, Patel said.
• FirstNet and AT&T are working to flesh out the validation and verification process for the dedicated FirstNet app store that AT&T is standing up.

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