NPSTC Files Against FirstNet Interoperability, T-Mobile Files in Favor
Thursday, April 02, 2020 | Comments

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) is against Long Term Evolution (LTE) interoperability between the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and other commercial carriers, while T-Mobile said such interoperability is essential, according to FCC filings.

NPSTC Chairman Ralph Haller said the organization does not support the Boulder Regional Emergency Telephone Service Authority (BRETSA) request regarding FirstNet in an ex parte filing. Last year, the FCC requested comment on BRETSA petitions for declaratory ruling and rulemaking that request FCC rule that “interoperability is a fundamental responsibility of FirstNet and that FirstNet is supported at all levels including network, services, applications and devices.”

NPSTC said granting BRETSA’s request could reduce interoperability. “Requiring that the [nationwide] public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) be interoperable at the network level with other commercial networks in essence would transition the NPSBN architecture from one nationwide broadband network to a broadband network of networks across which public-safety users would roam,” the filing said. “NPSTC does not support such a transition.”

NPSTC said the one network approach is essential to ensure the NPSBN is interoperable, provides consistency across public-safety users and offers the greatest protection against cybersecurity threats. “Even prior to the legislation that enacted FirstNet and made funding and additional spectrum available for the NPSBN, NPSTC issued positions that recommended one nationwide network,” the group said.

NPSTC cited its 2018 position paper that stated, “FirstNet has a physically separate, redundant, and dedicated core — it is not a virtual core as part of a commercial network. This supports the SAFECOM public-safety communications continuum, which encourages one platform for the highest level of interoperability. One public-safety core, the FirstNet core, also takes us away from decades of systems that cannot interoperate for multijurisdictional responses.”

NPSTC said it concurs with Harlin McEwen’s assessment that forcing interoperability would bring security risks. The full NPSTC filing is here.

Alternatively, T-Mobile USA representatives spoke with FCC officials in March and urged the commission to grant the BRETSA petitions and issue a declaratory ruling stating that interoperability is a fundamental responsibility of FirstNet in operating the NPSBN. The carrier said interoperability should be supported at all levels, including network, services, applications and devices.

Carrier representatives also urged the FCC to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to seek comment on interoperability issues, such as network elements and policies or services that are critical for interoperability, to facilitate roaming and appropriate prioritization treatment for public-safety entities. The filing said granting the petitions is consistent with the intent of Congress, which created FirstNet.

“To ensure a nationwide level of interoperability for the NPSBN, Congress also established within the commission the Technical Advisory Board for First Responder Interoperability (TABFR) to provide recommendations on minimum technical requirements for the NPSBN,” the filing said. “The purpose of those requirements is to ensure that true nationwide interoperability is achieved on the NPSBN so that a variety of public-safety entities can communicate with one another regardless of jurisdiction and whether they use FirstNet. Indeed, Congress would not have specifically called for open standards and created the TABFR if it sought only to achieve operability across a single network of FirstNet subscribers.”

The carrier also noted that the record demonstrates wide support for granting the BRETSA petitions. The first round of comments on the BRETSA petition, which included several public-safety agencies in favor of interoperability, were due in October.

“AT&T and FirstNet have exaggerated the purported interoperability limitations of other carriers in order to drive subscribers to AT&T’s network,” T-Mobile USA said. “AT&T and FirstNet’s scare tactics particularly disadvantage potential customers of providers like T-Mobile, which plans to provide innovative public-safety offerings, like Connecting Heroes.”

T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint was finalized this week.

The filing was signed by Eric Hagerson, T-Mobile principal manager, federal regulatory affairs, while the carrier’s representatives also included Jeffrey Neal and Paul Bongaarts with T-Mobile, as well as consultant Joe Hanna and attorney Russel Fox.

The T-Mobile filing is here.

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Comments
On 4/4/20, Charles Cutsforth said:
FirstNet interoperability is a can of worms. AT&T FirstNet's operation violates some of the most basic principles of what FirstNet was supposed to accomplish as a secure first responder resource. As I install consumer mobile devices on AT&T's wireless networks, I am seeing these consumer devices connecting to band 14 channels without FirstNet subscriber identity modules (SIMs). Is this AT&T's method of building out its consumer network at taxpayers' expense? How secure is this network if consumer and business traffic are being transported on band 14? Looks like AT&T has pulled a fast one on the FCC and other government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Commerce. How did this happen? What about areas where independent telcos still function in remote underserved markets where AT&T has no service?

On 4/3/20, jenny taylor said:
This is by far one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. It's clear that AT&T does not want to share and wants to have a strangle hold on this and public-safety users. COLD HARD TRUTH time.
1. Having all public-safety users on one network is detrimental to the network.
a. Their network has already gone down in some cities, and this is going to happen no matter what steps they have. Can you imagine having all public safety on one network that gets hacked or compromised?
b. The network will NOT hold up. Does not matter what they say; they will be overrun.
2. They do not cover all areas...that alone leads to the need for interoperability.
Let's work together...Isn't this what it's all about?

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