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NPSTC: Non-P25 Digital Technologies Will Negatively Impact Hard-Won Advances in Public Safety Interoperability in the US

Date: 2014-12-10
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Communications difficulties have been an identified problem in after-action reports from virtually every major disaster ever handled in the United States. The advent of digital radio exacerbated the problem as initial systems were deployed with proprietary technology. The public safety community has acknowledged issues with interoperability for over 40 years, and has worked hard to educate regulatory and legislative bodies to the problem. The public safety and vendor communities have worked in partnership for nearly 25 years to develop a standard for digital radios that will remove the technical barriers that have historically hampered interoperability efforts. The resulting suite of standards known as Project 25 (P25) has been adopted and widely implemented by public safety agencies throughout the U.S., Canada, and across the globe.

P25 is not the only digital land mobile radio technology available. Digital LMR technologies such as DMR, MPT1327, and TETRA are widely used outside the U.S. and hold the dominant market position in other parts of the world. Recently, some public safety and critical infrastructure agencies here in the U.S. have been opting for these and other disparate technologies that are not compatible with P25. Not only does this pose a virtually insurmountable technical hurdle for successful interoperability, it potentially negates billions of dollars' worth of investment in P25 LMR systems.

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) Guide NG 00041 states: Incident communications are facilitated through the development and use of common communications plans, interoperable communications equipment, processes, standards, and architectures. For government to integrate its collective services and critical infrastructure agencies under Unified Command, all disciplines must adhere to the five recommended standards of NG 0004. One of those standards is National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 12212 that specifies P25 equipment. In October 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a 700 MHz Report and Order requiring P25 digital capability on all 700 MHz interoperability channels.3

The use of incompatible equipment will create a barrier to achieving interoperability and therefore increase the risk to our first responders and the public they serve and protect.

NPSTC strongly urges public safety and critical infrastructure agencies contemplating the purchase or use of LMR equipment to opt for P25 Phase 14 (12.5 kHz conventional FDMA) and/or analog modes for interoperability. Project 25 Phase 1 radios automatically receive both analog and P25. No other technological solution ensures direct compatibility. While there are many other elements to consider in your quest to achieve a high level of interoperability, there can be no argument that compatible technology is paramount. 

NPSTC supports technologies that strive to improve interoperability for our nation's first responders. NPSTC does not support the eligibility or use of federal grant funding to purchase incompatible technologies.

NPSTC's ongoing dialogue on national public safety telecommunication issues affects policies and technologies that affect local organizations every day.  NPSTC actively seeks your participation as a person interested in public safety telecommunications.  As a NPSTC participant you can impact national policies of tomorrow and be a part of planning the future course of public safety communications today by being part of the debate and discussion.  For more information, please visit www.npstc.org.


Notes

  1. NIMS Guide 004: http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nims/NIMS_Guide_004_2009_update.pdf
  2. NFPA 1221: http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/document-information-pages?mode=code&code=12219. 3.3.2 Digital Conventional System Requirements. Digital conventional systems shall comply withTIA/EIA-102.BAAA, Common Air Interface. 9.3.4.2 Digital Trunked System Requirements. Digital trunkedsystems shall comply with TIA/EIA-102. BAAA and meet the requirements in 9.3.4.1.
  3. FCC Rule 90.548(a)(1) requires P25 digital capability on all 700 MHz interoperability channels.
  4. This does not preclude system infrastructure which is Phase 2 compatible.

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via NPSTC, 12/4/14)

 

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