The FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau recently adopted an order that establishes a technical framework designed to ensure interoperability between the myriad 700 MHz LTE networks that are expected to be established for first responders by state, local and regional entities in the future.

“There are many forces that pull against interoperability, this is why it is critical that we have an iron rule of interoperability for America’s public safety mobile broadband networks,” Jamie Barnett, chief of the public safety and homeland security bureau, said in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to make sure that nationwide interoperability is built into these networks from the beginning, and we will continue to work with public safety to make sure their immediate and long-term communications needs are met.”

Based on recommendations made by the FCC’s Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC), the order calls for recipients of 700 MHz waivers to build their networks in accordance with a baseline technical framework, including the following specific guidelines:

  • Construct networks that support Long Term Evolution (LTE) interfaces that support roaming and interoperability.
  • Construct networks that provide outdoor coverage at minimum data rates of 256 kbps uplink and 768 kbps downlink for all types of devices throughout the cell coverage area.
  • Provide 95% reliability of signal coverage for all services and applications throughout the network.
  • Conduct conformance testing on devices to ensure compliance with technical requirements associated with 3GPP Release 8 (LTE) and higher release standards.
  • Perform interoperability testing of the LTE interfaces to determine their roaming capabilities and make sure that these capabilities are sufficient.
  • Build security and encryption features into their networks based on certain optional features of the 3GPP security features for LTE Network Access Domain.
  • Allow to use permanent fixed point-to-point and point-to-multipoint stations only on an ancillary basis and on a non-interference basis to the primary mobile operations.
  • Coordinate with one another when their networks overlap or operate adjacent to one another to avoid signal/spectral interference or disruption to communications.

FCC spokesman Rob Kenny said agency officials have worked with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to help develop the technical framework. A copy of the order is available here.