DHS Establishes Standard for Interoperable Gateways (11/13)
Tuesday, November 13, 2007 | Comments

By Sandra Wendelken

A public-safety communications standards effort that began just more than a year ago has resulted in a published draft for VoIP-based bridges and gateways. Testing between two vendors took place last week at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) facility in Boulder, Colo.

A group of industry providers, public-safety officials and federal professionals met in August 2006 to discuss a standards effort for interoperability technology and placed a priority on bridges and gateways. Three subsequent meetings of the VoIP working group mapped out a phased approach to address 90 percent of the public-safety systems across the country that use bridges.

“We needed a simple protocol to tie [systems and bridges] together and to keep it digital,” said Luke Klein-Berndt, chief technology officer (CTO) for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) science and technology directorate. “Most VoIP in LMR systems is proprietary technology and incompatible. The group agreed on requirements and to create standards-based approaches to connect VoIP devices, regardless of manufacturer.”

Industry suppliers presented a technical draft in August, which was put out for comment. A draft was published in September, and vendor testing took place the week of Nov. 5. The testing will help debug and enhance the session initiation protocol (SIP)-based standards stack. The ultimate goal is to have the voice-only standard published by the summer of 2008, DHS officials said.

Company officials from Twisted Pair Solutions and Cisco performed the first vendor tests last week, said Rob Mitchell, Twisted Pair market and technology specialist. Other suppliers will participate in a larger testing effort in late March through NIST’s Office of Law Enforcement Standards (NIST/OLES).

Twisted Pair and Cisco executives first wrote a test plan to validate the specification and then tested Twisted Pair’s Wave software and Cisco’s IP Interoperability and Collaboration System (IPICS) products step by step against the test plan. “The goal was to make sure we had a valid specification,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the companies made a few modifications based on the testing, which were sent to all the working group members. The entire group will test products at the late March event and potentially ratify the standard. “There will also be future discussions regarding phase two of the specification, which will have a lot more functionality,” Mitchell said. Phase one is just about simple interoperability.”

Other members of the VoIP working group include Motorola, M/A-COM, Catalyst Communications, General Dynamics, Raytheon JPS Communications, SRA and others. The work is separate from the Project 25 (P25) standards process, but the two standards potentially can benefit each other, Klein-Berndt said.

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