AT&T Exec Highlights Priority, Pre-emption, App Program
Monday, August 28, 2017 | Comments
An AT&T official offered more details on priority and pre-emption and the application program for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) during several sessions at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International Conference in Denver Aug. 13-16.

Jeffrey Carl, AT&T director of product management, public safety solutions, said the network will have three levels of priority that public-safety agencies can assign. Primary users will have both priority and pre-emption on the network and will not pay an additional charge for those services, Carl said.

At the June Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Stakeholder Meeting, an AT&T executive said that fire, EMS and police will count as primary users on the network. During an APCO session, FirstNet Senior 9-1-1 Adviser Bill Hinkle said that 9-1-1 personnel would also be considered primary users on the FirstNet network.

Users who do not fall into the primary category will have access to the network as secondary users. Secondary users can have priority on the network if they pay an extra fee, but not pre-emption, Carl said.

AT&T plans to roll out the priority and pre-emption capabilities in three phases. The first, which provides priority services over AT&T’s network for states that opt in, has already begun. The second phase will provide pre-emption capabilities for those users that are eligible, and AT&T expects that phase to commence sometime by the end of the year, Carl said.

The third phase will include the delivery of the dedicated FirstNet band 14 core and will provide the different levels of priority, as well as an incident management tool (IMT) for assigning priority during emergencies. At the FirstNet board meeting in June, FirstNet President TJ Kennedy said FirstNet expects the band 14 core to be delivered in March 2018.

The IMT will allow agencies to categorize specific users to priority above other users during emergencies. This priority will be temporary and will expire after a given period of time determined by the agency. Public-safety officials will be able to uplift FirstNet users in their own agencies and FirstNet users from other agencies, Carl said.

AT&T is also excited about potential new technologies that could enhance quality of service (QoS), priority and pre-emption (QPP) in the future, Carl said. One potential example is an application programming interface (API) that could sit on the network and automatically uplift a specific user or users in priority when a specific condition occurs, eliminating the need for a manual uplift.

“QPP is only going to get better and smarter over time,” he said.

In a separate session, Carl provided details on the FirstNet application store that AT&T and FirstNet are standing up. The developer program for FirstNet apps will be a separate program and tool but will build off AT&T’s existing app developer program, which has more than 40,000 participants, Carl said. AT&T hopes that tools unique to the FirstNet program and network, such as the ability to interact with QPP, will encourage users to participate in that particular program.

The FirstNet app store could also provide a safe spot for developers that want to provide an app to public safety but not make it widely available to the public. This could eliminate scenarios such as a hostile actor downloading a public-safety app and reverse engineering it to find weaknesses or vulnerabilities in that app, Carl said.

Agencies will also have the ability to control what users download and where they download from. For example, an agency could allow users to download only from the FirstNet app store and no other stores, such as the Google Play or Apple App Store, Carl said.

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