SAN DIEGO—A standard to deliver LTE mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) capability that includes greater functionality than today’s land-mobile-radio (LMR) systems should be completed by the fall of 2016 at the latest, according to a U.S. official participating in the public-safety LTE standards effort.

Earlier this year, 3GPP—the organization that oversees the LTE standard—took the unusual step of creating a new working group, known as SA6, that is focused on developing an MCPTT standard for LTE, according to Andrew Thiessen, deputy program manager for Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR). MCPTT functionality is expected to be a key component of LTE Release 13.

Initial plans called for the SA6 working group to complete the initial study report on the MCPTT standard this month, but that step likely will not happen until September, Thiessen said. The delay was caused largely by debates on organizational issues and a technical question about the role that the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) should play in MCPTT, he said.

Those issues apparently have been resolved, so the SA6 working group should be able complete the MCPTT standard relatively quickly, because two other standards bodies—the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)—both have donated their LTE mission-critical-voice technical work to the 3GPP effort, Thiessen said.

Although the MCPTT may not be completed in time for the current Release 13 completion date of March 2016, Thiessen said he is confident that the delay will not be a lengthy one.

“It might slip to June,” Thiessen said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications conducted at PSCR’s annual broadband stakeholders’ conference last week. “At the absolute worst, I think there will be no more than a six-month delay from [March 2016]. I think three months is doable, but it kind of depends whether can put some of the arguments that have been going on in SA6 to bed and just move past them.

“If we can get traction in SA6 and get the discussion going, then I think it is realistic, given the amount of work that was done in OMA and ETSI and the reuse that I’m hoping that we’ll see there—we’ll get 90% of the way down the road [quickly] just with the reuse of those specs, and then we can build the rest of what we need to do around IMS and anything else.”

Typically, it takes one or two years from the finalization of a standard until equipment that includes the standard’s capability is commercially available, according to industry experts.

When asked if there is a possibility that MCPTT functionality might be pushed into Release 14—a circumstance that could prevent the standard from being completed until 2017 or 2018—Thiessen said “nobody’s going to let that happen,” noting international pressure to get the MCPTT standard established.

Specifically, both the United Kingdom and South Korea plan to deploy some public-safety LTE systems by 2017, and both countries have representatives that hold key positions in the 3GPP MCPTT standards effort, Thiessen said. Given these circumstances, Thiessen said he is confident that MCPTT capability will be included in the LTE Release 13 standard.

“There’s no way we’re going to see MCPTT slip to Release 14—no way,” he said during the interview. “We just have to figure out what the mechanism is that the process allows us to finish the work.”