Samsung, Sonim Executives Offer FirstNet Device Details
Tuesday, April 03, 2018 | Comments

Executives provided further details about the devices certified for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) network, with some new names and features joining the public-safety communications market.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ were the first devices to be certified on the FirstNet network last month. The smartphones have built-in 700 MHz band 14 access and technology that allows the phone to power Samsung DeX, a desktop setup with a computer monitor, keyboard and mouse.

“DeX lets officers have a single point for their computer in their pocket and in the vehicle,” said Reg Jones, Samsung Electronics America director of sales. “Officers can have hardened keyboards and touch monitors in the vehicle console and snap in the phone, and the peripherals become your computer. We think of it as a powerful extension and tool for our first responders.”

Jones also touted Samsung Knox, a secure platform built into Samsung devices, including the Galaxy S9 and S9+, and a set of solutions that leverages the platform.

Samsung has launched dedicated public-safety devices for the Emergency Services Network (ESN) in the United Kingdom and South Korea’s SafeNet public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. However, the same S9 devices used by consumers are certified for public safety in the United States. Jones said Samsung will consider launching a dedicated U.S. public-safety device later this year or in 2019 once it receives market feedback.

“We are very focused on our smartphones and tablets within this market,” Jones said. “The posture we’ve taken is that the compute capability within the smartphone and consistent connection within the smartphone have changed the landscape. I can power an ecosystem with one device.”

Sonim Technologies also has two smartphones, the XP5S and the XP8, certified on the FirstNet network. Sonim has conducted more than 150 trials in more than 30 states with public-safety agencies during the past several years. The company has adapted its features based on public-safety feedback, said Robert Plaschke, Sonim CEO.

For example, Sonim determined it needed a battery case and a side connector for remote speaker mics and headsets on its devices. The company also added speakers on the bottom of its phones.

The company is exploring a range of other form factors, including internet of things (IoT) devices. Firefighters could have an IoT device stitched inside their coats, allowing them to be tracked, and the devices could connect with a breathing apparatus. Sonim is also working on accessories such as e-ticketing devices and fingerprint readers, along with proximity services (ProSe) for LTE, known as direct mode for LMR, to allow its devices to connect directly to each other.

Plaschke said AT&T is subsidizing its FirstNet devices using the “old consumer models,” and a Sonim smartphone could cost around $49 for a FirstNet user agency.

The AT&T FirstNet website said the Samsung and Sonim devices are compatible with the FirstNet evolved packet core (EPC) and have a “FirstNet Ready” logo.

“Devices that have a FirstNet Ready badge are those that will work on the FirstNet EPC simply by installing a FirstNet SIM (subscriber identity module) card,” the website said. “Note that some FirstNet Ready devices may also require a simple software update. The remaining devices displayed are those that will work on the FirstNet EPC upon updating the software, unlocking the device (if required) and installing a FirstNet SIM.”

The Apple iPad and iPad Pro tablets are listed on the site but do not have the FirstNet Ready designation. Several accessories without the FirstNet Ready logo are on the website as well.

In-vehicle devices listed on the FirstNet website include the Motorola Solutions VML750, Cradlepoint's IBR900 and the Sierra Wireless AirLink MG90. None of the in-vehicle devices have the FirstNet Ready Logo.

FirstNet SIMs/universal integrated circuit card (UICCs) are ready and being distributed for availability in concert with the FirstNet core network launch, FirstNet officials said during the March 15 board meeting. AT&T launched the FirstNet core last week.

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