OMA sets its sights on public-safety specs

Public safety will be a hot topic during 2014 for the Open Mobile Alliance, as its member companies ponder enhancements to push-to-talk and location enablers to support public-safety applications.

In OMA's 2013 annual report, Francesco Vadala, technical plenary chair, noted public-safety services have been traditionally provided via public-safety standards--such as TETRA and P25--that provided features not supported in commercial cellular systems. But there is growing industry support for using commercial cellular networks for public-safety networks and services due to perceived benefits derived from economies of scale and "a standards-based approach that ensures interoperability between different vendors," Vadala wrote.

Release 12 of 3GPP's LTE standards will address enhancements to LTE for public-safety application requirements. Other standards-developing organizations also addressing related public-safety standards and requirements include the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) in the United States and British Standards Institution in the United Kingdom, Vadala noted.

OMA creates open specifications for interoperable services that work across geographical boundaries on any bearer network, a mission that seems suited to advancing public-safety communications over LTE and other cellular networks. Indeed, Vadala said the alliance will work on two work items this year related to public safety, though requirements will be sourced by regulatory or similar organizations such as the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and the UK Home Office.

OMA would also consider cooperating with other key stakeholders, including 3GPP, the ETSI Technical Committee TETRA, TETRA & Critical Communications Association (TCCA) and U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology "to ensure broad representation of the public-safety community," Vadala added.

He said the OMA POC (push-to-talk over cellular) enabler "should serve as a baseline" for further enhancement to meet public-safety push-to-talk (PTT) use cases. "The push-to-talk communications will operate at the Application Layer over the most efficient radio Transport Layer technology--currently deemed to be LTE in 3GPP. Close interactions between the Application Layer and Transport Layer will be essential to achieving the expected solution objectives," Vadala wrote.

Push-to-talk (PTT) over LTE for mission-critical voice communications is considered by many within the public-safety community as an essential component of the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) that will be crafted by FirstNet.

In August, John Lenihan, battalion chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and Pat Mallon, executive director of the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LA-RICS), told the FirstNet board their planned LA SafetyNet network, which will be deployed over FirstNet 700 MHz spectrum, requires functional VoLTE capability in addition to the interoperable data-sharing platform planned by FirstNet.

For more:
- see this OMA webpage

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VoLTE is essential for Los Angeles public-safety network

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