Urgent Matters

Recent events underscore significant market impact of LMR-LTE convergence

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Many of the key trends that were displayed and discussed during IWCE 2017 promise to have a significant impact on the critical-communications industry throughout the rest of the year and into the long-term future.

It has been more than a month since IWCE 2017 concluded, but many of the key trends that were displayed and discussed during the show promise to have a significant impact on the critical-communications industry throughout the rest of the year and into the long-term future.

Heading the list was FirstNet, the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) vision that took big steps toward becoming reality during the week of IWCE 2017. On Tuesday, the FirstNet board voted to finalize the selection of a contractor, which was announced as AT&T just two days later in a ceremony that included new Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. The contract announcement followed five years of work by the organization and more than a decade of work by public safety and others to address first responders’ communication needs.

Many questions about FirstNet still remain, with pricing, coverage and state opt-out scenarios topping the list. Greater detail should be available when draft state plans are released in June, but there is little question (1) that FirstNet will be built, and (2) that public safety should have plenty of capacity on the network, because public-safety entities will get preemptive access across all of AT&T’s commercial bands, in addition to the 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum licensed to FirstNet.

With FirstNet promising to become a reality, vendors responded to the potential opportunity, displaying and demonstrating myriad applications and products that are designed to leverage the much-anticipated NPSBN.

While FirstNet’s primary short-term benefit is expected to be broadband connectivity needed for applications that support data and video communications, the network also will provide non-mission-critical voice from Day 1 and plans call for mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) to be available in 2019.

When mission-critical voice will be available—if ever—remains a hot topic within the critical-communications community, but there is little doubt that commercial-grade push-to-talk-over-cellular (PoC) offerings already are changing users’ and vendors’ perceptions about the industry.

During the past year, we’ve seen some local governments replace land-mobile-radio (LMR) networks that serve non-public-safety users with PoC solutions. Much more common is the notion that PoC can be used to augment existing LMR communications via interoperability solutions, providing users with unprecedented coverage and application flexibility.

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Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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