No shortage of compelling story lines for 2014
Last year was a particularly eventful year in the communications-technology sector, and we expect 2014 to be just as eventful. Recently, we dusted off our crystal ball to see whether we could get a glimpse of the stories that will be the most noteworthy and/or interesting this year. The first five are presented today. On Thursday, we’ll present five more, as well our choices for what we’d like to see transpire this year.
FCC will nix 700 MHz narrowbanding plans
With this one, the writing has been on the wall for some time. Some questioned the wisdom of narrowbanding LMR systems to 12.5 kHz channels below 512 MHz, but asking relatively new 700 MHz narrowband systems to move to 6.25 kHz by Jan. 1, 2017, has received considerably more backlash from network operators. However, it is important for the FCC to make an official ruling on this before entities consider investing time and financial resources toward a project they may never need to execute. Meanwhile, LMR vendors will face new challenges as customers likely will not have to respond to an FCC mandate that forces them to buy equipment.
Band 14 device market will explode
With several public-safety LTE networks scheduled for deployment in 2014 and FCC certification rules for 700 MHz Band 14 devices finally in place, expect vendors to deliver many more first-responder devices to the market during the year, particularly in anticipation of FirstNet’s expected significant network rollout efforts in 2015.
T-Band lobbying will gain a sense of urgency
As part of the legislation that created FirstNet, public-safety entities in certain metropolitan areas are required to clear their LMR systems from the T-Band spectrum (470-512 MHz) by 2021. The legislation does not provide alternative spectrum for these large systems, and the FCC has not provided any helpful suggestions, either. Given the uncertainty surrounding mission-critical voice over LTE, expect many of these public-safety entities to push Congress hard to revisit the T-Band mandate in late 2014 and early 2015—and they will be supported by a slew of business-industrial users in the band that have even fewer options.
LTE standards body will take public-safety focus
3GPP, the standards body that oversees LTE, is expected to include several public-safety requirements in its standards work during the next year, driven largely by efforts in the United States and the United Kingdom to deploy public-safety-grade LTE networks during the next few years. Key requirements for mission-critical voice over LTE—one-to-many communications, off-network functionality and push-to-talk capability—are scheduled to be standardized during 2014 and 2015.
911 telecommunicator-certification movement gathers steam
For years, the 911 sector has been criticized for its lack of national training requirements for call-takers and dispatchers; indeed, many states still lack such requirements, and there is no consistency among the states that do have them. But last year saw a major breakthrough, as the four leading 911 training providers—the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the International Association of Emergency Dispatchers (IAED) and PowerPhone—joined forces to do something about this. Representatives of each entity worked with 911-center personnel from around the country to explore the issue at a forum presented by NENA in October. While it is unrealistic to think that requirements will emerge this year, expect the effort to snowball in 2014.