NPSTC Document Defines Mission-Critical Voice for Broadband (9/2/11)
Friday, September 02, 2011 | Comments

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) broadband working group released its mission-critical voice definitions and requirements document.

“It is imperative that those companies who will be developing the technology to provide voice over broadband fully understand all of the requirements that make up public-safety mission-critical voice,” the executive summary said. “This transition will take a number of years to accomplish, and it is not clear that all of the features and functions required by public safety for mission-critical voice can be accommodated using the commercial standards for wireless broadband.”

NPSTC officials said that for the companies that are developing wireless broadband technologies desiring to add mission-critical voice components, other documents detailing actual voice requirements will be necessary.

The key elements for the definition of mission-critical voice include the following:

• Direct or Talk Around: This provides public safety with the ability to communicate unit-to-unit when out of range of a wireless network or when working in a confined area where direct unit-to-unit communications is required.

• Push-to-Talk (PTT): This is the standard form of public-safety voice communications. The speaker pushes a button on the radio and transmits the voice message to other units. When the speaker is done, he releases the PTT switch and returns to the listen mode of operation.

• Full Duplex Voice Systems: This mimics cellular or commercial wireless networks where the networks are interconnected to the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

• Group Call: This method of voice communications provides communications from one-to-many members of a group and is of vital importance to the public-safety community.

• Talker Identification: This provides the ability for a user to identify who is speaking at any given time and could be equated to caller ID available on most commercial cellular systems.

• Emergency Alerting: This indicates that a user has encountered a life-threatening condition and requires access to the system immediately and is, therefore, given the highest level or priority.

• Audio Quality: This is a vital ingredient for mission-critical voice. The listener must be able to understand without repetition, identify the speaker, detect stress in a speaker’s voice, and hear background sounds without interfering with the prime voice communications.

“Each of these components, which make up the requirements for mission critical voice, is essential,” the summary said. NPSTC began working on the document earlier this year.

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