AT&T to Release RFP for Second Carrier-Integrated MCPTT Offering
Tuesday, March 13, 2018 | Comments

AT&T plans to have two carrier-integrated mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) options for First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) subscribers and plans to release a request for proposals (RFP) later this year, said an AT&T executive.

AT&T signed a product agreement with Motorola Solutions for its Kodiak carrier-integrated PTT product, along with the eventual MCPTT version of the Kodiak service, said Chris Sambar, AT&T FirstNet senior vice president.

“We are in the process of developing that [MCPTT service] in conjunction with them,” Sambar said.

He said because there are likely to be multiple MCPTT solutions on the market, AT&T plans to offer at least two carrier-integrated MCPTT solutions. “The FirstNet requirement is at least two,” Sambar said. “FirstNet doesn’t want to see a single vendor lock-in, and the providers must follow MCPTT standards. … Interoperability is important.”

“FirstNet recognizes the importance of open standards and competition to deliver the best solution for public safety,” said a FirstNet spokeswoman when asked if FirstNet’s contract with AT&T requires two carrier-integrated MCPTT options. “As such, AT&T has committed to providing options for MCPTT, and we will continue to work with public safety and AT&T to ensure the FirstNet PTT solution for public safety complies with MCPTT standards and promotes appropriate competition for public safety while delivering the desired user experience.”

AT&T’s Sambar said over-the-top (OTT) MCPTT applications that follow Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards and interoperate will be available to FirstNet subscribers as well.

FirstNet announced ESChat’s PTT app achieved “FirstNet certified” validation earlier this month. FirstNet launched the app developer program this year and will stock the FirstNet App Catalog with FirstNet-certified or FirstNet-reviewed apps. All apps submitted for the catalog go through a testing and evaluation process.

FirstNet reviewed means apps meet criteria for relevancy to public safety and have the security and data privacy needed for listing in the FirstNet App Catalog. FirstNet certified means the apps meet the criteria for relevancy, security and data privacy but also have the availability, resiliency and scalability public safety demands. Certified apps will also carry a badge that shows that they’ve been FirstNet certified. All apps that meet either the reviewed or certified criteria are approved through an app approval board consisting of members of both FirstNet and AT&T.

FirstNet and AT&T will both be observers during the second MCPTT Plugtests event hosted by Texas A&M University June 25 – 29 in College Station, Texas, FirstNet and AT&T spokeswomen said.

Additional 3GPP Mission-Critical Standards
Regarding other 3GPP mission-critical standards and features, Sambar said AT&T is “looking seriously” at high-power user equipment (HPUE) devices. HPUE increases transmit power from 200 milliwatts to 1.2 watts, potentially allowing extended coverage into rural areas. As a comparison, 700 MHz portable radios generally have a transmit power of 1 – 3 watts.

The HPUE standard for Long Term Evolution (LTE) band 14 was finished in September 2013, but only a few vendors have announced HPUE device plans. However, Sambar said AT&T is “actively in talks with vendors,” and it holds some intellectual property rights (IPR) around HPUE. “I believe it will start with vehicles, and then it will move to on-person devices,” he said.

Sambar said the carrier’s direct mode plans should be finalized this year. 3GPP standards call direct mode Proximity Services (ProSe), and features were partially included in LTE Release 13 with more features and frequency bands planned in Release 14. The U.K. Emergency Services Network (ESN) public-safety LTE network last year released an early-stage procurement engagement for direct mode communications ahead of 3GPP standards and market adoption.

“The FirstNet Innovation and Test Lab will test how FirstNet’s mission-critical functions and features are specifically operating on the network to ensure they are working properly on FirstNet for public safety,” said a FirstNet spokeswoman. “This may include how these features, and the devices and apps that utilize them, work together on the FirstNet network.”

FirstNet is encouraging app developers to develop middleware solutions to provide seamless access to data that may not have an open, standards-based definition.

“The FirstNet Authority will continue to play an active role in efforts to create and evolve standards that meet public safety’s needs and enhance interoperability,” the spokeswoman said. “We are proactively working in international standard bodies like 3GPP to drive open, common standards for mission-critical services that meet public safety’s needs. FirstNet will adopt data access and interoperability standards when they exist and are ready for public safety’s use.”

AT&T Partners
Sambar also provided an update on the four companies announced as partners on the original contract between AT&T and FirstNet. In addition to its Kodiak offering, Motorola also has a distribution agreement with AT&T and will sell the FirstNet service to its public-safety customers, Sambar said.

“General Dynamics is working in our program office and also building the COLTS (cells on light trucks),” Sambar said. “The first delivery of COLTS should be in the next month.”

Sapient Government is managing the FirstNet Local Control portal that will be delivered with the dedicated core, along with the app developer portal and ecosystem and performing app certification. Inmarsat Government is working with AT&T on satellite solutions.

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