A standard for mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) over LTE is on track to be completed in March, according to an official with 3GPP, which oversees the development of standards for LTE technology. If the standard is completed as scheduled, MCPTT-capable LTE devices likely would be commercially available within two years, according to most industry sources.

As of a 3GPP meeting in December, only 50% of the work on the MCPTT standard was deemed to be completed, but finishing the work by March is expected, according to Georg Mayer, who serves as a chairman of 3GPP Core Networks and Terminals (CT) efforts.

“We are now at 50% completion rate, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s very clear to us what still needs to be done,” Mayer said during a video interview that is posted on the 3GPP website, noting that he believes the MCPTT standards work will be completed in March, when the rest of the LTE Release 13 standard will be finished.

“We have a very clear timeline for that. I know it still will require a lot of work, but people are very much committed. We saw, I would say, some miracles happening already in the last few months, and I am thinking that we are prepared to finish 100% by March.”

As of today, the 3GPP website today indicates that the MCPTT standards work is 66% complete. Equipment from a 3GPP standard typically becomes available in the marketplace 18-24 months after a standard is completed, according to industry sources.

Establishment of the MCPTT standard would represent a major step in the development of LTE as a global public-safety communications technology. LTE already has been selected as the consensus next-generation data technology for first responders worldwide, but some have questioned public safety’s willingness to adopt LTE unless it also can provide the mission-critical push-to-talk capabilities that have been the hallmark of public-safety land-mobile-radio (LMR) system for decades.

Push-to-talk solutions that work over LTE networks have been used in the marketplace for years, but those services are proprietary and require the LTE device to be connected to a functioning LTE network. The goal 3GPP officials has been to develop MCPTT that is standardized and enables peer-to-peer communication within a limited range in situations when LTE network coverage is not available—similar to the simplex mode in an LMR system.