LA-RICS Executive Director Offers Latest on P25, LTE Networks
Friday, August 11, 2017 | Comments

Scott Edson, executive director of the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS), provides an update on the combined Project 25 (P25) and Long Term Evolution (LTE) project.

Edson has been with LA-RICS for four months, having retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) with more than 39 years of service. He retired as chief of the Special Operations Division overseeing homeland security, counterterrorism, intelligence, special weapons and tactics (SWAT), air operations, crime analysis, information sharing, street gang investigations, emergency management, crisis negotiations, arson and explosives, and the mental evaluation response teams. His prior experience includes 15 years in communications, technology ‎and law enforcement information sharing; and prior to that, emergency management, investigations, patrol and custody. Edson is also a member of the California First Responder Network Board (CalFRN), which will make a First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) opt-in/opt-out recommendation to the governor.

What is the status of the LA-RICS buildout? LA-RICS is a $500 million voice and data communications system dedicated to the 34,000 public safety officers in Los Angeles County. The LMR portion is on schedule for what I call the 20/20/20 plan; 20 sites will be built this year with six completed, 20 sites in 2018, and 20 sites in 2019, with testing and acceptance expected in early 2020. The P25 trunked radio system will have some analog radio overlay for local tactical use.

The private LTE system is complete with 76 sites covering 95 percent of the most populated areas of our 4,083 square miles. We are onboarding public-safety users with modems, routers and smartphones, approaching 1,000 users with several thousand more to go. The system was built to the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) “public safety grade” and will likely be the only network still standing and operating should the big earthquake hit here. We are in discussions with FirstNet and AT&T to ensure the full network remains intact as built as we migrate it to FirstNet. Being the largest 24/7 operating private public-safety LTE band 14 network in the world, we are also recommending FirstNet and AT&T take advantage of our knowledge and experience as they build out the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN).

Will the two networks be integrated? With full control of both the voice and data networks, we are able to seamlessly connect the two networks. We use push to talk (PTT) over broadband to talk over both the broadband and radio systems. We have successfully replaced expensive portable radios with lower-cost smartphones for some non-mission-critical users. Wherever possible, we collocate LMR and LTE technologies and reuse backhaul and equipment for redundancy.

How will LA-RICS evolve with California’s statewide public-safety LTE buildout? The LA-RICS LTE network is more secure and reliable than any other LTE network and was built to public-safety grade as demanded by the public-safety community. The public-safety users and county citizens should accept nothing less. We will work with the state to ensure no degradation or downsizing of our network as we transition the network to FirstNet or the state, should it opt out. It is our hope FirstNet will continue to expand on LA-RICS and build more private band 14 sites north to the Oregon border and south to the Mexican border. The expansion would ensure an interoperable public-safety network in all California that will be operational and allow us to serve California citizens should the big earthquake happen, as predicted.

Will California release a request for proposals (RFP) for an alternative radio access network (RAN)? If the California state plan from FirstNet is anything less than what LA-RICS has already built, then the state should issue an RFP. The PSAC, National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC), Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International and others, helped define public-safety grade. We built a public-safety grade network here, and that should be the standard for a public-safety broadband network nationwide.

Tell us more about your role as executive director. I’m very excited to be here, and I only retired from the LASD to accept this position. My mission in public safety has always been to ensure the public experiences the best quality of life. I have an opportunity to ensure the public-safety users in this region have the best, most reliable, interoperable communications system in the nation. That’s one less thing for them to worry about as they carry out their mission to serve the public, which is in support of my goal of providing the community with the best quality of life.

I oversee the planning, construction, deployment, onboarding and operation of the networks in addition to looking ahead at emerging technology and how that can be leveraged to benefit the public-safety users and ultimately better serve the 11 million citizens of L.A. County.

I also remain a reserve deputy sheriff for LASD in the Special Operations Division where information, intelligence and interoperability all collide. Additionally, I’m a private pilot and will assist the LASD in research and development in unmanned aircraft systems all the while finding the balance between privacy and citizen protection.

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