AT&T Announces Controlled Introduction of MCPTT Service
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 | Comments

AT&T announced new developments around the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) including a limited mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) introduction, free smartphones with contracts and the first high-power user equipment (HPUE) certifications.

AT&T announced a “controlled introduction” of FirstNet Push-to-Talk (PTT), which the company called the first nationwide mission-critical standards-based PTT solution to launch in the U.S. The carrier said it was developed specifically for public safety, and public-safety agencies across the country, including the Cranford Police (New Jersey) Department, tested the FirstNet PTT service.

The service and first device are available nationwide now to eligible FirstNet subscribers. During the controlled introduction period, AT&T will deliver additional elements of the ecosystem, such as additional devices, an application and LMR interoperability. The initial release conforms to Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 12 with support for Release 13 capabilities, an AT&T spokesperson said.

“Reliable communication is critical. It must work. It must be there when we need it,” said Capt. Guy Patterson of the Cranford Police Department. “And, it must be crystal clear because we don’t have time to repeat ourselves or introduce room for errors in fast-changing situations or when lives are on the line. Our experience with FirstNet PTT has been excellent. On more than one occasion, FirstNet PTT allowed us to effectively communicate when our traditional systems failed.

“Testing FirstNet PTT was an intensely promising experience, showing us the future capability, quality and performance we can infuse into our response to enhance effectiveness and collaboration.”

The carrier declined to share the exact number of agencies that tested the service, but both law enforcement agencies and fire departments were involved in testing. The carrier plans general availability before the end of the year.

AT&T said in a statement that FirstNet PTT is designed to enable public safety to use smartphones, feature phones and specialized ultra-rugged devices similar to how they would use a two-way radio, with highly reliable, high-performance calling. FirstNet PTT will also deliver new features that allow first responders to better react to changing events.

The controlled introduction of the FirstNet PTT service includes launch of the Samsung Galaxy XCover FieldPro, with more devices available later this year. The Galaxy XCover FieldPro is a highly secure device equipped with PTT capability and features that make it suited for use by first responders across all public-safety disciplines, the carrier said.

“Together with AT&T, we continue to deliver America’s first responders much-needed public safety broadband infrastructure, as well as an entire ecosystem of mission-centric tools and capabilities," said FirstNet CEO Ed Parkinson. "PTT based on open 3GPP standards is a key milestone for FirstNet and public safety. The FirstNet Authority has worked diligently to represent public safety and ensure their critical communications needs were recognized within the global standards development process. We look forward to continuing to work with AT&T and public safety to evolve the solution and deliver the tools they need for their lifesaving mission.”

To help with public safety’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, AT&T said it expanded mapping visibility to FirstNet Central, formerly known as Local Control. FirstNet Central is the primary service portal for FirstNet subscribers. Now, public-safety administrators have access to the interactive coronavirus disease (COVID-19) dashboard created by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Agencies can view confirmed cases in relation to their jurisdiction and couple this insight with the FirstNet Esri-embedded network status map, which now includes hospital and trauma levels, for better situational awareness.

In addition, AT&T announced that first responder public-safety agencies on FirstNet can get premium FirstNet Ready smartphone devices free for their agency paid users when they get a new FirstNet Mobile – Unlimited for Smartphone line of service or eligible upgrade with either a two-year service agreement or a new AT&T Installment 30-month agreement, along with other conditions.

The website lists a standard FirstNet — Mobile Unlimited plan for smartphones at $39.99 per month. An enhanced plan, which adds Wi-Fi service, is $44.99 per month.

Under a two-year installment agreement, subscribers could upgrade their smartphones with a new eligible smartphone every two years at no additional cost as long as the service plan is in effect and in good standing. The upgrade requires a new two-year agreement. For the AT&T installment 30-month agreement, subscribers could upgrade their smartphones with a new eligible smartphone every time they satisfy the current AT&T installment agreement and sign a new one for no additional cost for as long as the service plan is in effect and in good standing. For both plans, tax on full retail price is due at sale. Activation and other fees, taxes, charges and restrictions apply.

“First responders deserve a dedicated communications partner that can provide the tools they need, when they need them, and that’s exactly what they’re getting with FirstNet,” said Jason Porter, senior vice president, FirstNet Program at AT&T. “We are here working side-by-side with public safety and together we’ve made FirstNet nimble, adaptable and ready to scale for even the most severe situations as we’re seeing currently with COVID-19. Now, agencies spanning law enforcement, fire, EMS, healthcare, hospital emergency departments, emergency management and 9-1-1 operations can stay up-to-date with smartphones for life at no additional cost and know their responders’ devices are up to the task when the next emergency strikes.”

Starting April 1, individual first responders who sign on to FirstNet and pay for their own service can get a $200 activation credit when activating a new FirstNet Ready smartphone on a new FirstNet First Mobile-Responder plan.

AT&T also certified Assured Wireless’ embedded internet of things (IoT) module and USB-connected modem as FirstNet Ready in preparation for launching high-power user equipment (HPUE) solutions also later this year. Following 3GPP standards, power class 1 HPUE solutions can transmit stronger signals in 700 MHz band 14 than in other spectrum.

Devices that have a FirstNet Ready certification are those that will work on the FirstNet evolved packet core by installing a FirstNet subscriber identity module (SIM) card. Some FirstNet Ready devices may also require a software update, according to the website.

AT&T first announced plans for HPUE last year. AT&T is working with Assured Wireless and other OEMs to make HPUE functionality available on the many device types used by public safety, an AT&T spokesperson said.

HPUE devices can be used wherever band 14 has been deployed, and those areas continue to be built out. However, the Assured Wireless device is capable of using all of AT&T’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) bands, so even if a user is out of a band 14 coverage area, the device can be used like a normal USB modem.

HPUE power class 1 solutions are permitted only on band 14 spectrum pursuant to 3GPP standards, so AT&T is the only carrier that can offer this particular HPUE service. The technology has been shown in field tests to increase the range of standard band 14 LTE signals by 80% and more than triple the coverage area of a base station. In addition, even at shorter distances, the reserve power provided by HPUE can optimize the signal to significantly improve data speeds, especially uplink speeds from the field.

Uplink speeds are important to first responders when uploading video and other data-intensive communications from the field. In rural areas where coverage has been sparse, spotty or nonexistent, FirstNet HPUE will provide connectivity. Even in dense, metropolitan areas, the technology will enable connectivity through thick skyscraper walls to deep interior locations such as stairwells, elevator shafts and below ground parking and offices, the spokesperson said.

FirstNet announced its contract with AT&T to build a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) three years ago. AT&T launched the FirstNet dedicated network core two years ago.

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On 3/31/20, Tim Burns said:
Did anyone ask AT&T why this release is not MCPTT standards compliant and has proprietary interface extensions from Samsung? Any device that follows the MCPTT standard will not work on this system at this time.


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