While the Sonim device may have some similar characteristics to a public-safety LMR radio—for example, a hardened casing, an emergency button and a dedicated push-to-talk button—the LTE device is reflective of the open-standards vision, scale and functionality associated with LTE technology, Plaschke said.

In fact, FirstNet’s promise to embrace an open-standards ecosystem is a key reason why Sonim Technologies decided to pursue the public-safety market, Plaschke said.

“I would have never taken our company into public safety absent of a FirstNet construction, absent of an open environment,” Plaschke said. “I just wouldn’t have done it. It would have just been suicide.”

For public-safety agencies, there has long been a desire to have greater choice by embracing standards-based solutions, such as P25. However, vendors often have introduced proprietary features and pricing into standards-based offerings that effectively have limited public-safety agencies’ choice.

Maggie Goodrich, CIO for the Los Angeles Police Department, said even the best-intentioned policy choice to seek open-standards solutions is difficult to realize for an agency that does not have the prerequisite technical capability to ensure that the open-standards vision is implemented properly.

“You’ll see agencies require open standards in an RFP [request for proposals], but they don’t know how to test against that open standard to tell if the vendor is telling the truth or not,” Goodrich said. “They don’t know if they’re really being locked into something [proprietary] or not.

“I think the market really needs assistance from the vendor community in driving how you prove that product or solution meets the open standard, so that an agency knows what they are getting.”

Sambar said that FirstNet subscribers will benefit from the fact that AT&T’s deal with FirstNet calls for the implementation of open standards and that FirstNet has the technical staff and facilities to ensure that AT&T accomplishes this goal.

“Everything we’re doing for the FirstNet program is being watched and certified by the FirstNet authority,” Sambar said. “When you hear others in the industry on the commercial side saying that they’re doing the same thing, no one’s checking their work. The FirstNet authority is checking all of our work.

“So, before the Sonim device is on the FirstNet network, operating on the core, on Band 14, the FirstNet authority is going to check that device in their lab in Boulder, Colo., and make sure that it all works.”

Doug Clark, AT&T’s assistant vice president for FirstNet state outreach and consultation, echoed this sentiment, noting that the FirstNet vision is all certified components within the ecosystem—from the dedicated FirstNet core to end-user devices and applications—are compatible and will execute first-responder tasks.

“The experience that you have to have is …. when you use that device, it’s critical that it works—that every single piece of that works,” Clark said. “AT&T is committed to delivering that.”

Derek Prall contributed to this report.