WESTMINSTER, COLO.—FirstNet officials yesterday were outspoken in voicing their displeasure with an attempt by some vendors to establish a mission-critical-voice standard via the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) instead of going through 3GPP, the global standards body for LTE technology.

FirstNet board member Kevin McGinnis focused attention on the matter during the Technology Committee meeting, when he stated that mission-critical voice via LTE remains “quite a ways off” but has been the subject of considerable progress within 3GPP. Indeed, 3GPP has prioritized key components of mission-critical voice—notably, push-to-talk capability and peer-to-peer communications—to be included in releases 12 and 13 of LTE.

“It’s one of the areas that we’ve made some really fine progress in over the last few years,” McGinnis said during the committee meeting, which was open to the public. “The PSCR (Public Safety Communications Research) staff … has traveled the world over, going to 3GPP meetings and going from a point where we thought public safety was going to be buried under a whole bunch of commercial concerns and we’d never get anything done. Three or four years later, we’re right at the top. Push to talk is in play, and direct-mode [communications] is being talked about, and there are other features, as well, and I really want to commend the PSCR staff for that.

“But right as I say that, I understand that there is a move afoot by certain vendors to take the process of developing standards in these areas to whole different standards body—OMA, I think it’s called. To me, that would be tremendously distracting when we’re making progress in these areas, which upsets me as a public-safety professional.”

Ali Afrashteh, FirstNet’s new chief technology officer (CTO), echoed this sentiment, noting that he had made similar statements to the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) earlier in the day.

“We are requesting and want to tell certain vendors to support us to push for accelerating of these types of features and functionality in 3GPP rather than doing it in some other organization,” Afrashteh said during the Technology Committee meeting.

After the committee meeting, McGinnis reiterated his disappointment with the effort to pursue mission-critical voice standards through OMA.

“I’m told that they want to move it to a standards body where those vendors presumably have more influence,” McGinnis said during an interview with IWCEs Urgent Communications. McGinnis said he does not know which vendors are pushing the OMA initiative but described the effort as “distracting, and it detracts from the progress we’ve made [in the 3GPP standards process].”