Chris Sambar, AT&T’s official leading the FirstNet effort, yesterday apologized for his comments about the public-safety-grade (PSG) definition, said AT&T is committed to Band 14 deployment and outlined potential security concerns that core-to-core interoperability with Verizon or other carriers could cause for public safety.

Sambar made the comments during a meeting of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC), which in 2014 released a 123-page document outlining its PSG definition, which could become an ANSI standard in 2018. However, NPSTC recently expressed disappointment in AT&T for statements made by Sambar—most notably, in testimony during a U.S. Senate hearing—that AT&T “is not aware of a single agreed-upon definition for public-safety grade.”

Yesterday, Sambar said that NPSTC did a “great job” in forming its public-safety-grade definition.

“In addition to commending you on your work, I’m going to apologize on comments that I made that may have been misleading or may have made anyone … think that AT&T was not 100% committed to public safety and to fulfilling public-safety grade as FirstNet has delivered it to us,” Sambar said during NPSTC meeting. “And, when I say ‘as FirstNet has delivered it to us,’ that was informed by the work that NPSTC, APCO, the PSAC—all of them—did together over a number of years prior to the RFP ever being released.

“So, I want to make that commitment to all of you, in addition to the apology. If my comments misled or concern anyone, please know that we are absolutely 100% committed.”

AT&T not only is committed to meeting the public-safety-grade requirements stipulated by FirstNet, but it also is committing to an “ongoing dialog” with organizations like NPSTC and with states, which already have shown significant interesting the public-safety-grade nature of the FirstNet system, Sambar said.

“I was on a call with a state yesterday—and last week, another state—that gave us a written list of 600 locations of PSAPs, fire stations, police stations, etc., and they wanted to make sure that the sites that were serving those are public-safety grade, and we absolutely committed to that they would be,” he said. “We’re in the process of working through that with the state.”

However, Sambar said that public-safety grade is a “very broad and very vast term,” noting that it needs to extend from user devices in the field to towers, backhaul, central offices and applications. AT&T’s commitment to providing service to first responder under difficult circumstance has been showcased at the carrier’s 30 central offices in Houston, which is recovering from the landfall of Hurricane Harvey and the severe flooding in the storm’s aftermath, he said.

 “Their [central-office personnel’s] job, with a shop vac, was to make sure that water didn’t get into the central office,” Sambar said. “When we put them in there, we caulked the doors, we taped the doors and we put sandbags on the doors, from the outside. So these guys were essentially locked in a vault—they did a fantastic job and made a heroic effort.

“Why did we do that? Because we needed a public-safety-grade network that extends from the handset to all the way to the central office, because that’s going to make the network work in an interoperable fashion—that’s very important.”

While AT&T is committed to providing public safety with reliable service, the carrier cannot be expected to harden all elements of its network to highest levels of the public-safety-grade definition, Sambar said.

“You [NPSTC] noted it in your report: it’s not reasonable to think that every single tower will be at the same level of public-safety grade,” he said. “That’s not necessarily a reasonable expectation, but there does need to be some kind of ranking system, and AT&T has put a lot of time into that over the years, to understand which towers need to be the top—whether that’s a hub location for fiber or a hub location for microwave that’s feeding a dozen other towers, because you don’t want that microwave link to go down and take down 12 other towers.”