Ohio entities seek to use ISSI to make first interoperable link between FirstNet and P25 systems from Harris, Tait
Public-safety entities in the state of Ohio hope to begin testing an interoperability solution that is designed to link FirstNet push-to-talk service with Harris P25 systems—and possibly a Tait P25 network—by leveraging P25 Inter RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) technology, according to officials involved in the project.
Alan Close, owner of Cleveland Communications (CCI)—the Harris dealer that has spearheaded the interoperability initiative—said that his company began working with the city of Parma, Ohio, in 1989, when Parma installed one of the first EDACS LMR systems in the country. Today, Cleveland Communications is working with Parma—now a customer with a Harris P25 Phase 1 system operating on VIDA core—to interconnect the city and other local entities to the FirstNet public-safety LTE system being built by AT&T.
“We’ve helped Harris write the book on migrating to P25,” Close said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Now, we’re helping Harris and AT&T get together to try to write the book on how to interoperate between land mobile radio and FirstNet system, with the convergence of all the technologies that are both coming and currently available to the folks that use LMR and FirstNet.
“The goal has been, ‘Let’s overcome the hurdles. Let’s develop the playbook.’”
Close said the interoperability project began about 15 months ago, when CCI started working with officials from the city of Parma, Harris, AT&T and Kodiak—the Motorola-owned company that provides AT&T’s carrier-integrated push-to-talk-over-cellular (PoC) solution for FirstNet. Testing of the first push-to-talk link between a Harris P25 system and FirstNet is expected to begin soon, he said.
“Within the next couple of weeks, we should be talking to each other across these two platforms,” Close said.
T.J. Martin, communications coordinator for the Parma fire department, said that the city of Parma has “been sold on the FirstNet proposal since its inception”.
Martin said that Parma’s geography creates coverage challenges, many of which can be addressed by augmenting P25 with FirstNet coverage provided by AT&T. In fact, Martin is one of several city administrators that frequently use the Harris BeOn application’s PoC capability over the FirstNet system.
“It’s worked out fantastically for me and the other administrators,” Martin said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “I actually love that thing—I use it more than I use my LMR.”
Being able to link Parma’s P25 system to its FirstNet users should provide tremendous benefit to the city, according to Martin.
“This is going to greatly expand our capabilities, through the ISSI, through AT&T and through FirstNet,” he said. “My vision is that I want to have an entire system that is not only covered by our LMR but also has a backup to the backbone through AT&T FirstNet. Part of that includes cellular routers in our vehicles that have the AT&T [FirstNet] black SIM cards installed.”
Martin said the interoperability initiative can be used to benefit FirstNet users outside the city of Parma.
“It’s our hope that other people are going to see our example and say, ‘If they can do it, let us do it,’” Martin said. “The great part of it is that a lot of this is going to run through our VIDA core. There’s a ton of space in there, and it allows us to not only fully use the capability of that VIDA core but our LMR radio system to increase our capabilities, no matter where we go.
“It’s going to allow tremendous opportunities for interoperability between different radio systems and different department—not only regionally but statewide. It’s our hope that this can expand even further. A lot of that is going to be dependent on getting other systems to sign onto this. They don’t like change, so we have to make sure to get this change this working and operable, so we have the answers before any questions arise.”
Close said that nearby Medina County—an entity that has a Harris P25 Phase 2 network—is part of the ISSI initiative that is leveraging the Parma VIDA core.
“That allows Sheriff [Tom] Miller from Medina County to fulfill a desire to make his guys interoperable—not just within the Medina County area but also within FirstNet and any user that comes into Medina County that might have FirstNet, he wants them to have the ability to interoperate with his users,” Close said.
In addition, the city of Elyria, Ohio also is expected to utilize the interoperability capability being developed in association with Parma, Close said. Elyria has a three-site, conventional P25 network built by Tait.
“They are going to become AT&T FirstNet users in early June, and they want to join this network by connecting their Tait base stations to Parma’s core to take advantage of the FirstNet interface that we’re putting together with our ISSI,” Close said. “So, along with making the first Harris connection, we’re also going to make the first Tait connection.”
Close said he would like to see the Parma-centric ISSI solution get linked with larger LMR systems, such as the statewide Ohio MARCS P25 system that uses technology from Motorola Solutions.
“AT&T is already connected to Motorola systems in the United States—not a lot, but a few,” Close said. “With Kodiak being part of Moto, I can’t imagine that there’s a technical reason why they can’t. It all comes down to a desire and a will to make the connection for the benefit of all.
“I think it definitely can happen, and I’ll work on the political side to give reality to that dream. I think it comes down to, if interoperability is about everybody talking to each other, then let’s get the politics out of the way and get it done.”
Martin is optimistic that this initiative can lead to greater interoperability within Ohio and that it can be replicated elsewhere in the country.
“I do. I fully believe that the possibilities and capabilities are there, once this gets completed—not only in the entire state, but anywhere you go nationwide will have the capabilities,” Martin said.
“I think that it’s important to emphasize that Alan at CCI and Harris have already done the homework. So, the homework is on the table. It’s just waiting for someone else to come in and copy it.”