Samsung announces 3GPP IWF-based solution supporting MCPTT-LMR interoperability for public safety
Samsung this week announced a new solution that meets the 3GPP standard for Land Mobile Radio Interworking Function (LMR-IWF), which is designed to let public-safety LTE systems interoperate with P25 and other types of LMR networks.
Timothy Paul, senior manager of sales for Samsung Electronics America’s networks business and the author of a blog outlining the interoperability capabilities, said the need for MCPTT-LMR interoperability is apparent in the marketplace, so the vendor giant partnered with Etherstack to develop a solution based on the 3GPP’s IWF standard.
“LMR is not going to disappear anytime soon,” Paul said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “If we need to expand MCPTT, it has to have a common way of talking to the legacy systems.
“We have made a lot of progress in the 3GPP world, bringing the IWF that has interoperability from the MCX side—that is there. However, everything else is left undefined—how you interface with the network, in terms of ISSI, CSSI, DFSI. That’s all left open, and it’s up to us to figure it out. So, we partnered with Etherstack. They are a pretty good company when it comes to software-based solutions and their understanding of P25 systems. So, we partnered with them and now we are working with them to develop it and bring it to the table here.”
Samsung’s LMR-IWF solution is a software-based offering that is expected to be hosted in data centers initially, according to Paul.
“The beauty of this solutions is that it is software-based, so you don’t need hardware,” he said. “These days, virtualized software that can be deployed in data centers is the way forward. Of course, now everybody is migrating to the AWS or [Microsoft] Azure platforms, and that’s the next step.
“Ours is a virtualized software-based solution. The intent is that you can hook up your agencies directly from whatever protocols they use—via ISSI, CSSI or DFSI—directly into our data centers.”
For those agencies looking for alternatives to the data-center model, Samsung’s LMR-IWF solution could be hosted in a cloud environment, Paul said.
“Generally, we prefer a centralized architecture, because that’s simpler and easier to manage,” Paul said. “It’s good to have it at the edge, too, if you want to have local control and things like that. But from a cost perspective and an efficiency perspective, we prefer centralized data centers as a first step.
“If you want to have a cloud-based architecture—I know that there are security concerns and things like that, but we have worked hard to address them—that’s another possibility. That actually helps lower the startup costs when you go in a cloud environment.”
Public-safety agencies interested in the Samsung interoperability tool will need to purchase it through a wireless carrier partner, Paul said.
“We don’t deal directly with any agencies; this is an operator solution,” Paul said. “Starting with Safe-Net [the public-safety LTE network in South Korea] and FirstNet, we are all over the place now. Several countries have their own public-safety networks or are exploring such options, and this is a product for such agencies. How they sell to the individual public-safety agencies is their business model.”
Given this go-to-market strategy through carriers, Paul declined to comment on the pricing of the Samsung interoperability solution that public-safety agencies might find in the marketplace.
Paul also did not disclose the names of any carriers that will offer the new interoperability solution, although it is anticipated that it will be available first in the U.S. A blog written by Jason Porter—AT&T’s president for the public sector and FirstNet—earlier this month acknowledged the FirstNet contractor’s work with Samsung on its initial mission-critical-push-to-talk service and mentioned Samsung’s LMR interoperability platform for the first time.
“We’ll discuss [the interoperability platform] with everybody that’s interested,” Paul said. “We think this is something that’s a very useful tool for the entire public-safety community globally, so we are very interested in sharing what we have done with operators who have an interest in serving the public-safety community.”
Samsung’s initial LMR-IWF package is geared primarily for LMR users of P25 technology, supporting the ISSI, CSSI and DFSI interoperability standards. But the LMR-IWF platform’s interoperability support will expand to other LMR technologies in the future, Paul said.
“As a first release, we won’t be able to support everything, just because of the amount of work that goes into these protocol conversions—it takes time to test it out and everything,” Paul said. “But we’ll start with ISSI, CSSI and DFSI; those are the in the first one. Then slowly, we will bring other versions in the U.S. and also TETRA and DMR systems—which are also popular now, at least in the non-public-safety environment—and then expand across the world.”
One problem cited by many public-safety agencies that use P25 communications is the high cost associated with the ISSI licensing fees charged by some LMR vendors to support interoperability. Paul said that using the Samsung LMR-IWF solution will not allow a first-responder entity to avoid this issue.
“The ISSI license fees are there; that is something we cannot bear,” Paul said. “We expect any agency to have some sort of ISSI and to pay for the license fees. Once that is done, they have access to it [interoperability through the Samsung LMR-IWF provided through a carrier].”
While the ISSI licensing-fee situation is a challenge for agencies using P25 in the U.S., Samsung officials do not expect it to be an issue worldwide, according to Paul.
“I will say that’s not a challenge with TETRA globally,” he said. “This is an ISSI issue.”