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NPSTC Home NPSTC Newsletter Volume 9 Issue 4, December 2009

Welcome from the Chair
by Ralph Haller

From the Chair It’s almost 2010 and the countdown to narrowbanding draws closer …

Standard Channel Naming: Frequently Asked Questions
by John Powell

Channel Naming FAQ The PSWAC Report for the first time documented cases where radios all had the same interoperable channels programmed into them, but the channel name display was not the same and field responders did not know that they could interoperate with each other on those channels …


What We All Should Be Thankful For

Thankful For First responders are the most visible face of public safety, but without groups like NPSTC and its member organizations fighting to support the needed spectrum, policies, technology, and standards, Officer Jones might not be able to talk to Officer Rogers without interference …


Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Program Plans 700 MHz Broadband Demonstration Network

Broadband Demonstration Network The PSCR program will begin building a Public Safety Broadband Demonstration Network to provide manufacturers with a site for early deployment of their systems, an opportunity to evaluate them in a multi-vendor environment, and create integration opportunities for commercial service providers …


NPSTC’s Chair Ralph Haller Wins Barry Goldwater Award at RCA

Goldwater Award Ralph Haller was awarded the Barry Goldwater Award at the at the Radio Club of America's 100th Anniversary Gala celebration …


Regulatory Update
by Bette Rinehart

Regulatory Update Many parties filing comments in response to the Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on developing the National Broadband Plan (NBP) have expressed concern that there is not enough spectrum …


NPSTC Presents Fourth Richard DeMello Award to Don Root

DeMello Award The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC’s) Governing Board was pleased to present the fourth annual Richard DeMello Award at the Radio Club of America's 100th Anniversary Gala celebration to Donald E. Root, Jr., Assistant Manager, Wireless Services Division, San Diego Sheriff’s Department …


Since We Last Met

 

  • P25 Task Group Vote Troubles Public Safety
  • PSST Submits Broadband Requirements to FCC
  • PSCR to Conduct New Digital Audio Testing
  • Narrowbanding Website
  • Virtual USA

 

Welcome from the Chair
by Ralph Haller

From the Chair It’s almost 2010 and the countdown to narrowbanding draws closer. On December 11, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Public Notice reminding licensees, frequency coordinators, and equipment manufacturers of the mandated narrowband migration deadlines in the 150-174 MHz and 421-512 MHz band. The PN makes the consequence of failing to meet the 2013 narrowbanding date very clear, which will assist the coordinators and others in convincing the licensees that they have to take this seriously. The FCC intends to enforce the January, 1, 2013, date and states that, “Operation in violation of the Commission’s rules may subject licensees to enforcement action, including admonishments, monetary forfeitures, and/or license revocation, as appropriate.”

While NPSTC fully supports the narrowbanding 2013 deadline, NPSTC’s Governing Board believes certain interim deadlines effective January 1, 2011 will hamper public safety interoperability during the final 2 years of the transition and will unnecessarily raise costs for public safety users. NPSTC has asked that the FCC stay the requirement for newly certified radios to include a 6.25 kHz channel equivalency mode, even though no P25 standard for that channel size exists today. Reply comments on NPSTC’s Petition for Rulemaking (PFR) were due December 3, 2009.

NPSTC’s Governing Board welcomes new representatives from the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials – International (APCO) and the National Association of State Technology Directors (NASTD), and extends its gratitude to APCO’s former primary representative Willis Carter and alternate, Chris Fischer, and to Richard Reynolds, former primary representative of NASTD.

Now serving on the Governing Board is Greg Riddle, who will serve as APCO’s primary representative and who is the current First Vice-President of APCO. Greg recently retired as the Executive Director of West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center in River Forest, Illinois. Serving as alternate will be Richard Mirgon, APCO’s President, who recently retired from his position as Director of Technology Services for Douglas County, Nevada. Wayne Gallant, Director, Network and Communication Services Office of Information Technology, Augusta Maine, will serve as the primary representative of NASTD.

NPSTC congratulates the 2009 DeMello Award Winner, Don Root, who has demonstrated the highest levels of personal and professional conduct and performance in the local, state and national public safety communications arena, and who was honored at the Radio Club of America’s (RCA) 100th Anniversary in November. [See article in this issue.]

Congratulations also are extended to:

  • Robert Shapiro, Chair, Technology Education Working Group, who was elected to serve as Treasurer of RCA at its annual meeting in November.
  • William Brownlow who has been invited to serve on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC’s) Communications Security, Reliability & Interoperability Council (CSRIC), representing NPSTC to that advisory council.
  • Lance Valcour, Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (CITIG), who was elected to serve on the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Law Enforcement Information Management (LEIM) Board at the IACP's annual meeting held in October in Denver, Colorado.

Happy holidays to all. We look forward to seeing you in the new year at the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE), where NPSTC’s Governing Board will again host an informal meeting to discuss current topics in public safety telecommunications.

Standard Channel Naming: Frequently Asked Questions
by John Powell

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in APCO’s Public Safety Communications, December 2009, issue. Reprinted with permission of Editor.

Channel Naming FAQ As early as the mid-1980s, the problem of communications interoperability was being so routinely highlighted in incident After Action Reports (AARs) that some recommended it “just be printed as a problem on the blank AAR form.” The first official compendium of interoperability-related problems at the national level occurred with publication of the Final Report of the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC) on September 11, 1996. PSWAC was a Federal Advisory Committee jointly sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). That Report noted a critical need for more public safety spectrum, 24 MHz of new spectrum, with 10 percent or 2.4 MHz for interoperability, eventually resulting in Congressional and FCC action that created the 700 MHz public safety band. That report for the first time documented cases where radios all had the same interoperable channels programmed into them, but the channel name display was not the same and field responders did not know that they could interoperate with each other on those channels. That lack of interoperability contributed to significant property loss in one major fire highlighted in the Report.

This same issue was highlighted again 5 years later on September 11, 2001, with the attacks on the World Trade Center and, to a lesser extent, at the Pentagon. Subsequent to the 9/11 attacks, a second Federal Advisory Committee, the 700 MHz National Coordination Committee (NCC), chartered by the FCC to give it advice on implementing the new 700 MHz public safety band, made the following recommendation in its Final Report:

Standard Channel Nomenclature

The NCC respectfully renews its earlier recommendation that the Commission’s Rules contain mandatory channel nomenclature for all interoperability channels on all public safety bands. The NCC views such standard nomenclature as essential to the interoperability process, such that all responders to an incident will know the appropriate channel to which to tune their radios and will know – from the channel designator – the band and primary use of the channel specified. Absent such standard nomenclature, a Babel-like confusion could result if, for example, a given jurisdiction were to designate 458.2125 MHz as a calling channel and associate it with “Channel 5” on its radios; and another jurisdiction were to designate the same frequency as a tactical channel and assign it to “Channel 9” on its radios. With adoption of a standard channel nomenclature in the Rules, such confusion – and the attendant potential for delayed response to an incident – would be avoided…

While the FCC declined at that time to mandate such a standard channel nomenclature, the interoperability naming protocol developed by the NCC received wide acceptance within the public safety communications community, as communications interoperability for public safety’s first responders continued to be a major issue.

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina spread its wrath across the Gulf States resulting in a nationwide public safety response to support the impacted states and those that later became collection points for residents displaced by the hurricane or its aftermath. This same problem of non-standard channel naming again was documented as a major impediment to effective public safety communications. This issue was subsequently highlighted at the highest levels of government with release of the 9/11 Commission Report and the Katrina Report by Congress.

Subsequently, in 2006, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) was approached by a number of public safety user organizations with a request that NPSTC review and update the Standard Channel Nomenclature recommended in the NCC’s Final Report to reflect ‘real world’ user operational requirements. A Task Group was convened and a public forum to address the issue was held on February 5, 2007 in Orlando, Florida. Six proponent organizations submitted recommendations for modification of the NCC’s Standard Channel Nomenclature. These were heard and discussed at the forum and a consensus format was adopted. The proposed revision (as a Report of Committee) was placed on public notice, and after a 90-day comment period, adopted by the NPSTC Governing Board as the revised NCC/NPSTC Standard Channel Nomenclature protocol.

This new protocol has been widely adopted across the country in the intervening period, and requests to the federal government resulted in the finalization of standard names for similar channels in federal agency spectrum at the June 2009 NPSTC meeting.

The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International is a NPSTC member and is the recognized and accredited American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-Standards Developer (ASD) for public safety communications standards. APCO volunteered, on behalf of NPSTC and its member organizations, to facilitate the most recent version of the Standard Channel Nomenclature document through the ANSI standardization process. This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document is designed to address questions that may arise from the public review and comment process associated with this ANSI standardization effort.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

1. Where should these new names be installed and how should they be used?

These names should be “installed” as the names for all associated interoperability channels in both fixed infrastructure (base stations and consoles) as well as subscriber radios (mobiles and portables).

The names should be used as the standard name for all associated interoperability channels in Memorandums of Agreement/Understanding (MOA/MOUs), Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Tactical Interoperable Communications Plans (TICPs), and all associated training materials. Likewise, they should be used when referencing these channels in the field during briefings or over the air.

2. Will the use of these new names become mandatory once the ANSI standard is published?

Not necessarily. Further action would be required by the FCC and/or other regulatory bodies to impose such a requirement at the national level. However, depending upon the structure of interoperability requirements within states or regions, such as through a state’s Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) or inter-local agreements, use of these names could be required at those levels. It is also possible that grant guidelines issued by states or federal agencies could require use of these names at some time in the future as a condition for use of grant funds to purchase radio equipment.

3. Will these names change frequently so that I have to reprogram again?

Once adopted as an ANSI standard, these names should not change, though additional names might be added should the FCC allocate more, or repurpose existing, interoperability channels.

4. Is there a cost to program these new names into my radios?

Depending upon the time that this programming is completed, there may be an added cost. However, the recommended times to complete this reprogramming (below) are such that this cost, if any, can be minimized by doing the reprogramming in parallel with other changes that are being required for your radio systems:

a. For radios operating in the VHF High and UHF Bands (136-512 MHz), it is recommended that reprogramming occur as these radios are “narrowbanded” as required by the FCC prior to January 1, 2013.

b. For radios operating in the new 700 MHz band, program the new names as the radios are initially placed into operation.

c. For the 800 MHz band, it is recommended that reprogramming occur as these radios are “rebanded” pursuant to FCC rebanding requirements. The cost of rebanding is covered by Sprint/NEXTEL as part of their agreement with the FCC.

As a side benefit, use of the old names will indicate that the radio has not yet been reprogrammed and use of the new names would indicate the radio has been reprogrammed.

5. Is there a national urgency to having these standards adopted as an ANSI standard?

Yes. The National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) was submitted to Congress in 2008 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications pursuant to a deadline established in earlier legislation. To promote the NECP’s goals of providing response-level communications at the scene of an incident within 1-3 hours (depending upon the incident and jurisdictions involved), the NECP established the following milestone:

Initiative 3.1: Standardize and implement common operational protocols and procedures. A national adoption of plain-language radio practices and uniform common channel naming, along with the programming and use of existing national interoperability channels, will allow agencies across all disciplines to effectively share information on demand and in real time. Using common operational protocols and procedures avoids the confusion that using disparate coded language systems and various tactical interoperability frequencies can create. Use of the existing nationwide interoperability channels with common naming will immediately address interoperability requirements for agencies operating in the same frequency band.

Recommended National Milestones:

Within 6 months, OEC develops plain-language guidance in concert with State and local governments to address the unique needs of agencies/regions and disciplines across the Nation.

Within 6 months, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) certifies, and emergency response accreditation organizations accept, the NPSTC Channel Naming Guide as the national standard for FCC-designated nationwide interoperability channels.

For a complete copy of the NECP, see

6. Can I use grant funds to reprogram my radios?

Check with your grant administrator of the State Administrative Agency (SAA). Some local and state agencies have used DHS grant funds from the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (IECGP) and State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) for radio reprogramming.

7. What is the purpose of the band designator since my radios only operate in a single band?

At least three manufacturers have now released multi-band radios (Harris, Motorola, and Thales). In multi-band radios, the band designator makes it easier to determine which interoperability band/channel is selected to use. Likewise, the band designator also serves to alert technical staff and ICS Communication Unit personnel at the scene of an incident to the band a particular radio uses, since this is not always easy to tell from the characteristics of the radio itself.

8. What is the reason for the two-character unique number at the end of each name?

In 2001-02 as the NCC Interoperability Subcommittee was building this naming system, it was advised by a number of agencies, particularly several federal agencies, that they had tens of thousands of radios in the field with only a two-character display. By appropriately programming these radios, and with some education for their users, these last two digits can still serve to get the user onto the right interoperability channel (10-39 for VHF high band radios and 40-49 for UHF radios).

9. What is the reason for the shortened six-character version of some of the channel names?

In 2001-02 as the NCC Interoperability Subcommittee was building this naming system, it polled the manufacturers as to the number of characters that then-in-production radios supported on their channel name display. The lowest number commonly supported was eight, so the NCC built its naming formula to use no more than eight characters. Following the February 2008 NPSTC meeting when the revised naming structure was adopted, agencies across the nation (initially from Colorado and Hawaii) advised NPSTC that at least two manufacturers had a limit of six characters on their displays when the “zone display” function was selected. Many subscriber (mobile and portable) radios have their channels and talkgroups broken into zones to make them easier to manage. Those two manufacturers had a radio-wide option (either on or off for all channels) that displayed a two-character zone designator in front of the channel name, using the first two characters of the eight-character display. Those agencies requested that NPSTC develop a shorter six-character version of each name that could also be standardized for use in these radios.

10. The term “TRVL” as part of the channel name has just recently been added; what is the purpose of that designation?

Operational confusion needs to be avoided. A solution being used by many agencies is to program both the old local names and the ANSI standard names into their radios, assuming there is capacity in the radios to take both sets of frequencies and their associated names. That allows continued use of the local name during the conversion process. However, once the conversion is completed, only the new names should be used as "use breeds familiarity" and continued use of the old names on a day-to-day basis will leave the users unfamiliar with accessing the standard names should they have to leave the local area to support an incident at another location.

11. I have local names for these same channels and this could result in confusion as some radios will have the old names and some the new names. How should I handle this situation?

Operational confusion needs to be avoided. A solution being used by many agencies is to program both the old local names and the ANSI standard names into their radios, assuming there is capacity in the radios to take both sets of frequencies and their associated names. That allows continued use of the local name during the conversion process. However, once the conversion is completed, only the new names should be used as “use breeds familiarity” and continued use of the old names on a day-to-day basis will leave the users unfamiliar with accessing the standard names should they have to leave the local area to support an incident at another location.

12. As a follow-on to the previous question, there are FCC-designated interoperability channels in my region that are linked/patched together 24/7 through a gateway for calling and tactical purposes. How should these be named since this system will be operational for the foreseeable future?

An excellent question! Many areas of the country are installing multi-band “gateways” or patches between interoperability channels to allow agencies using radios in different bands to interoperate. NPSTC’s recommendation is to use the Channel Use Designator (CALL, FIRE, LAW, MED or TAC) from the ANSI naming standard to show the designated channels’ use, but prefix it with an abbreviation that makes sense for your region. For example, in the Kansas City Urban Area (composed of counties in Kansas and Missouri), they are completing buildout of the multi-site simulcast Regional Area Multi-Band Integrated System (RAMBIS) that interconnects interoperability channels in each of the VHF, UHF and 800 MHz bands on a 24/7 basis.

VHF radios will have VCALL10 programmed in one interoperability bank, UHF radios will have UCALL40 programmed in one interoperability bank and 800 MHz radios will have 8CALL90 programmed into one interoperability bank, but all three of these radios will have these same channels programmed in a different location, all called by the same name “RAM CALL” so that, from an operational perspective, they appear to be the same working channel. Likewise, two each VHF, UHF and 800 MHz TAC channels will be programmed with their standard ANSI interoperability channel names for the operational band of each radio, but again be programmed in all of those radios as “RAM TAC1” and “RAM TAC2” so that operationally they appear to be the same channel though they are actually interconnected through the RAMBIS gateway.

There will be immense operational value to be able to instruct field personnel on a particular incident to “use RAM TAC1” without regard to what band their radios actually use. It will, however, be necessary for the ICS Communications Unit Leader (COML) at an incident to realize that RAM TAC1 is interconnected to interoperability channels in all three bands, especially if the incident is large enough to involve resources from outside the region.

13. Can a local, county, or state agency use the federal channels in the table?

Such use generally requires a sponsoring federal agency and use is restricted to those incidents where one or more federal agencies are also involved. To avoid misuse of these channels, it is recommended that they be separately located in field radios in a bank or zone titled “FED” or “NTIA” to alert users that there are special requirements to using these channels.

John Powell is Chair of NPSTC’s Interoperability Committee.

What We All Should Be Thankful For

Thankful For Editor’s Note: First responders are the most visible face of public safety, but without groups like NPSTC and its member organizations fighting to support the needed spectrum, policies, technology, and standards, Officer Jones might not be able to talk to Officer Rogers without interference. Officer Jones and Rogers couldn’t assume that one piece of equipment could talk to another without the behind-the-scenes work on standards. It does no good for agencies from two different towns to have the same channels on their radios if they call them by different names and can’t reach each other when a building is collapsing. Without enough spectrum and without the kind of filings made on behalf of public safety, Officer Hawkins may just be left in the lurch when she calls for backup and can’t get through because an unlicensed wireless mic is causing interference.

In late November, Urgent Communications Editor, Glenn Bischoff, wrote a wonderful article about the people who work behind the scenes, often unrecognized and unsung, but who are every bit as important to our public safety. Here is a portion of what he so correctly noted.

What We Should All Be Thankful For, by Glenn Bischoff

"I live in a country where all I have to do is dial 911, and the cavalry comes running. When we are fleeing a burning building, firefighters are entering. Similarly, police officers are all too willing to dodge bullets so we can sleep safely and soundly. And let’s not forget the emergency medical technicians. They encounter gruesome scenes on a daily basis that would give many of us nightmares for weeks. On top of that, EMTs have to make quick decisions under enormous pressure – and they have to be right, or people die."

"But there’s much more to the story. None of these exploits could happen without the dedicated people who work behind the scenes to design, engineer, deploy, operate and maintain the communications systems that first responders rely upon. Not only that, but already dangerous jobs would be far more dangerous if not for reliable, mission-critical communications. Yet, unlike those they serve, communications technicians rarely get recognized. When a firefighter rescues a child from a burning building, he puts on his dress uniform, shakes the mayor’s hand and is handed a medal. Not so, generally speaking, for those who labor behind the curtain."

"So it was very nice to see Don Root, assistant communications systems manager for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, receive the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council’s Richard DeMello Award during the Radio Club of America’s 100th anniversary banquet in Washington Saturday evening. NPSTC Chairman Ralph Haller presented the award, which is presented for "the highest level of personal and professional conduct and performance" in public-safety communications."

"Earlier in the evening, Haller received the Barry Goldwater award, which is presented in recognition of exemplary service to the public via the use of amateur radio. Given all of Haller’s accomplishments over the years, he could have been cited for any number of reasons. But there’s a certain poetry to this reason because, after all, amateur-radio operators are the very first first responders when mega-events occur that knock terrestrial infrastructure off line. So, to Don, Ralph, and the rest of their brethren, who toil tirelessly and largely anonymously so that the rest of us can rest easier, we offer our sincere thanks."

Permission to use portions of article granted by Glenn Bischoff.

Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Program Plans 700 MHz Broadband Demonstration Network

Broadband Demonstration Network In June 2009, portions of spectrum in the 700 MHz band were shifted from television to public safety as all full-service television stations shut off analog transmission and began to transmit in digital format, vacating a portion of 700 MHz spectrum for public safety’s use. Since that transition, public safety agencies are eager to operate in the 700 MHz spectrum, particularly as that spectrum can provide public safety access to broadband applications that will enhance the protection of lives and property.

The FCC is developing a national broadband plan, to be released in February 2010, which will outline how 700 MHz spectrum activities will move forward. While this in progress, several public safety jurisdictions at the city, county, and state level have already filed waiver requests with the FCC for early deployment of their own 700 MHz broadband networks.

A unified broadband system would allow public safety agencies to communicate with nationwide roaming and enhanced interoperability; however, there are currently no government or independent laboratory facilities in the United States to test and demonstrate the public safety specific behaviors of this yet-to-be-deployed 700 MHz network and the applications that could run on top of it. To address this critical gap, the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program, a program of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will begin building a Public Safety Broadband Demonstration Network to provide manufacturers with a site for early deployment of their systems, an opportunity to evaluate them in a multi-vendor environment, and create integration opportunities for commercial service providers.

"The demonstration of these new technologies, implementations, and services is a critical step in successfully deploying the next generation of mission-critical systems," says Dereck Orr, PSCR program manager. "This is an excellent opportunity for NIST and the PSCR to leverage our skills and assets to ensure the successful adoption and deployment of a new, nationwide communications system for public safety."

A national broadband network could offer public safety groups around the country access to advanced communications technologies including video, mapping, and GPS applications, and more. The new system will provide a common demonstration site for manufacturers, carriers, and public safety agencies to test and evaluate advanced broadband communications equipment and software tailored specifically to the needs of emergency first responders. Emergency responders, vendors, carriers, academia, and other pertinent stakeholders also will able to access the demonstration network.

This demonstration network is currently in the preliminary planning stages and is expected to go live in mid-2010. Interested industry and public safety representatives can contact Orr at (303) 497-5400, dereck.orr@nist.gov, or Jeff Bratcher at (303) 497-4610, jbratcher@its.bldrdoc.gov, for information on how to get involved.

The PSCR program is a partnership of the NIST Office of Law Enforcement Standards and the NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (NTIA ITS). PSCR provides objective technical support–research, development, testing and evaluation–in order to foster nationwide public safety communications interoperability. More information is available on the PSCR Web site at www.pscr.gov.

NPSTC’s Chair Ralph Haller Wins Barry Goldwater Award at RCA

Goldwater Award Ralph Haller was awarded the Barry Goldwater Award at the at the Radio Club of America's 100th Anniversary Gala celebration on November 21, 2009. The award says, "In recognition of a long record of service to the public through the use of amateur communications. Ralph has dedicated over four decades to the betterment of wireless communications, and he has demonstrated significant leadership and involvement in both amateur radio and land mobile communications."

Ralph Haller Mr. Haller has served as NPSTC’s Governing Board Chair since February, 2008. Previously he served as the voting representative for the Forestry Conservation Communications Association (FCCA). Mr. Haller has dedicated his career to the communications industry with over 40 years experience ranging from his early career as an engineer/disc jockey while working his way through college as a broadcaster to his current role as land mobile consultant with Fox Ridge Communications, Inc as president.

He served the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in many roles for 25 years, including serving as Chief of the FCC’s Private Radio Bureau. Mr. Haller is an authority on the FCC's rules relating to human exposure to radio frequency energy and has written software to evaluate compliance of radio sites. He is a regular speaker at industry functions and regularly writes articles for Mission Critical magazine

Mr. Haller is the Executive Director for FCCA, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization. He is a Fellow in the Radio Club of America and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Regulatory Update
by Bette Rinehart

Regulatory Update Data Sought on Uses of Spectrum National Broadband Plan Public Notice #26

Many parties filing comments in response to the Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on developing the National Broadband Plan (NBP) have expressed concern that there is not enough spectrum available to meet the demand for wireless broadband services and have recommended that the FCC make additional spectrum available for commercial uses. In NBP Public Notice #26, the FCC is seeking more specific data on the use of spectrum currently licensed to broadcast TV stations.

Some of the questions the FCC asks in the Public Notice are:

  • How should the FCC compare the benefits of spectrum used for wireless broadband services versus spectrum used for over-the-air TV?
  • How do TV broadcasters use DTV capabilities today?
  • How do broadcasters plan to use their licensed spectrum in the future?
  • Could broadcasters share TV channels in a market? What are the advantages/disadvantages?
  • Would greater collocation of transmitters closer to the city centers free up broadcast spectrum?
  • What market-based or other incentives could the FCC impose to encourage broadcasters to make spectrum available for reallocation?

Comments were due December 21. The text of the Public Notice is available at:

Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) Files Recommendations for Local/Regional Broadband Early Deployment

The Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), the license holder for the public safety broadband spectrum, has filed its recommendations for local/regional broadband early deployment with the FCC. Nationwide roaming, priority access, and interoperability among the local systems and the eventual nationwide public safety broadband network are the goals behind the recommendations. The PSST used the report prepared by the NPSTC Broadband Task Force to develop its proposed requirements:

  • Public Safety Broadband Licensee (PSBL) lease of spectrum to local/regional public safety operator under existing spectrum leasing rules
  • Access to public safety broadband network and local/regional system by first responders, emergency response, and federal agencies
  • Use of LTE technology
  • PSST expects to form a PSST Local/Regional Public Safety Operator Advisory Committee (OAC) to develop guidelines on such topics as nationwide roaming, priority access
  • Local/regional build-out should be completed as quickly as possible
  • Allow commercial roaming on all parts of the nationwide public/private network including local/regional public safety systems
    • Priority access determined and managed by local/regional operators using guidelines developed by the PSST and OAC.
  • Proof of funding or a viable plan for obtaining funding for the construction and maintenance of the local/regional system
  • Commitment to network upgrades and maintaining interoperability with the nationwide public safety broadband network
  • Responsibility for relocating narrowband incumbents within the local/regional operators service area prior to broadband deployment

The filing also included recommendations on both basic startup and future features, technical issues related to system identifiers and a proposed lease agreement. The full text of the PSST filing is available at:

Comment Sought on NPSTC’s Petition for Rulemaking to Provide Public Safety Paging Spectrum in the 900 MHz Band

The FCC is seeking comment on a Petition for Rulemaking filed by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) that urges the Commission to conduct an audit of the 900 MHz Narrowband PCS spectrum with the goal of recovering vacant or lightly used spectrum and making some of those recovered frequencies available to public safety for two-way paging and messaging.

Comments are due January 8, 2010; Replies are due January 25, 2010. Filings should reference WT Docket 09-217. The text of the Public Notice is available at:

FCC Releases Public Notice Reminding Licensees, Frequency Coordinators and Equipment Manufacturers of VHF/UHF Narrowbanding Deadlines

On December 11, the FCC released a Public Notice reminding licensees, frequency coordinators and equipment manufacturers of the upcoming VHF/UHF Part 90 Narrowbanding Deadlines, steps that incumbent licensees need to take to certify compliance and clarifies that continued operations at 25 kHz after January 1, 2013 on a secondary basis will not be permitted.

The text of the Public Notice is available at:

FCC Provides Filing Instructions and New Station Class Code for Primary Permanent Fixed Operations in the 4.9 GHz Band

In April, the Commission modified the 4.9 GHz service rules to elevate “broadband” permanent fixed point-to-point links to co-primary status. “Broadband” permanent fixed links:

  • Connect 4.9 GHz base and mobile stations delivering broadband service or
  • Connect broadband stations using other broadband spectrum
  • Stand-alone links that deliver broadband service such as video surveillance

Permanent fixed point-to-point links that connect narrowband stations remain secondary.

In a December 3 Public Notice, the FCC announced the new station class code to be used when licensing primary broadband permanent fixed point-to-point links – “FXB.” Secondary permanent fixed point-to-point links will use station class “FXO.”

The text of the Public Notice is available at:

700 MHz REGIONAL PLANNING UPDATE

Fifty-four of the 55 Regions have either held or set the date for their first meeting. One Region has selected a convener but not yet set a date for the first planning meeting. Thirty-one Regional Plans have been approved; one Regional Plan is now pending.

Bette Rinehart is Chair of the Editorial Review Working Group.

NPSTC Presents Fourth Richard DeMello Award to Don Root

DeMello Award
Ralph Haller, far left; Don Root, center; and Harlin
McEwen, first DeMello Award winner, far right.
The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC’s) Governing Board was pleased to present the fourth annual Richard DeMello Award at the Radio Club of America's 100th Anniversary Gala celebration to Donald E. Root, Jr., Assistant Manager, Wireless Services Division, San Diego Sheriff’s Department.

“Don has been a tireless worker for public safety communications over many years,” says NPSTC’s Vice Chair, Chief Douglas Aiken, International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA). “He has worked at the state and local level and been a huge contributor. Don has lead initiatives that were adopted in federal rules and become requirements for the betterment of communications. He works many volunteer hours above and beyond a demanding full time work schedule.”

Mr. Root’s leadership in NPSTC has been impressive in the depth and breadth of the knowledge he brings to the public safety forum. “Don understands the technical and operational side of public safety communications and brings his personal work experience to his volunteer work allowing for all involved to be educated and to make the right decisions for first responders,” says Ralph Haller, NPSTC’s Chair. A notable achievement was his co-chairmanship of the NPSTC Common Channel Naming Task Force, which resulted in a guide that will become an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard, and which has the distinction of meeting one of the milestones of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP).

Mr. Root has extensive experience in public safety telecommunications and warning systems governance, design, implementation, and operations. Currently he manages operations for the San Diego County – Imperial County Regional Communications System, an 800 MHz trunked radio network serving 20,000 users and covering approximately 9,000 square miles along the U.S.–Mexico border. From 1984 to 2006, Mr. Root was with the Telecommunications Branch of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES). While with OES, Mr. Root held positions from field coordinator to Chief of the Telecommunications Branch, and worked at locations covering all areas of California.

While at OES, Mr. Root also served as California’s Statewide Interoperability Coordinator, managing the state’s Mutual Aid Communications and Interoperability programs, and organizing the California Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee. Mr. Root was responsible for the design and implementation of communications augmentation systems for nine disasters and multiple planned events throughout California, including the 1984 Summer Olympics, 1992 Los Angeles Riots, 1994 Northridge Earthquake, 1994 World Cup Soccer semi-finals and finals, numerous widespread flooding events, wildfires, Year 2000 contingencies, and political conventions.

In 1992, Mr. Root was the first emergency management official appointed to the FCC’s Emergency Broadcast System Advisory Committee, and worked with the FCC and the broadcast industry through the development and implementation of the Emergency Alert System in 1997. He was a participant in the interoperability subcommittees of the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC) in 1996-97, and the Public Safety National Coordinating Committee (NCC) in 1999-2003. Mr. Root was the Convener of the Northern California (Region 6) 700 MHz Regional Planning Committee, served as Vice Chair of the Southern California (Region 5) 700 MHz Regional Planning Committee in 2008-2009, continues as a member of the California Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee’ Southern Planning Area subcommittee, and is also a member of the SAFECOM Emergency Response Council.

Mr. Root is a Life Member of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), a Senior Life Member of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO), and a member of the Radio Club of America (RCA).

DeMello Award Sponsors

Thanks to EADS Secure North America Networks for their generous support of this year’s award. NPSTC’s Governing Board also thanks RCA, Doug Sharp, Jack Daniel and past DeMello sponsors for their generous support: Ericcson, Motorola, and GEOCOMM. Past DeMello Award winners are Chief Harlin McEwen, John Powell, and Chief Charles Werner.

Award Named to Honor DeMello’s Achievements

The Richard DeMello award was named to honor the achievements of DeMello, one of the founding fathers of NPSTC. He was a frequency coordinator for the Forestry Conservation Communications Association (FCCA), the 700 MHz Regional Planning Committee Chair for Region 21, Michigan, a Life Member of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials – International (APCO), and a member of RCA.

Mr. DeMello served on the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC) and on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC’s) Public Safety National Coordination Committee (NCC). Marilyn Ward, Executive Director, NPSTC, said that Mr. DeMello was instrumental in bringing all of the frequency coordinators together in NPSTC. “Richard believed that we should continue the work of PSWAC and develop a broader group of all levels and disciplines of public safety to work on consensus agreements on FCC filings,” Ms. Ward said. “He remained a steady guiding force as NPSTC matured from its infancy into a mature consensus body.”

Radio Club of America

RCA was formed by a small group of dedicated radio amateurs and experimenters in 1909. The Radio Club of America counted among its membership the very best in the radio communications industry, including the pioneers who shaped the industry.

Since We Last Met

P25 Task Group Vote Troubles Public Safety

In November 2009, the Project 25 (P25) Task Group voted that conformance tests aren’t needed for compliance to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) P25 Compliance Assessment Program (CAP).

The P25 CAP was created by Congress to ensure that public safety equipment is compliant with the standard and that the equipment will ensure interoperability. The P25 CAP tests for performance, to ensure equipment meets the specifications; interoperability, to ensure it works with other equipment; and conformance, to ensure it meets the standard. These three elements of the testing have been approved by the P25 board. In September, in response to reports that vendors wanted to remove the conformance component of the testing and replace it with interoperability testing, and, further, that they wanted that testing to be allowed outside of approved labs, the NPSTC Governing Board passed a resolution stating that compliance testing should be part of the testing and that P25 CAP labs should be where the recognized testing occurred.

At the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) meeting in October, there was a meeting with the P25 CAP governing board, manufacturers, and the Intersystem Interface (ISSI) Task Group to discuss the issue. [The ISSI is the software/hardware combination that ties disparate systems together and allows roaming.] The vendors said doing conformance testing after the fact creates a cost burden which they would have to pass on to the public safety purchasers and that they already do their own conformance testing. The P25 CAP board said that the testing in independent, vetted labs is different, and it does not believe that interoperability is a valid test of conformance to a standard. Both sides agreed to disagree at the time. Since then, there has been a vote in the ISSI Task Group that resulted in a 51-49 decision to remove the compliance testing.

If conformance tests aren’t included in the ISSI document sent to the P25 CAP governing board, it is unclear whether the board will approve the document, which could affect DHS grants for P25 equipment.

PSST Submits Broadband Requirements to FCC

The following letter thanks NPSTC’s Broadband Task Force for its report that provided the underpinnings of the PSST recommendations to the FCC. The PSST’s recommendations are on NPSTC’s home page.

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

The Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corporation ("PSST"), in its role as the 700 MHz Public Safety Broadband Licensee, has carefully reviewed the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council ("NPSTC") Broadband Task Force Report ("Report") and hereby submits its recommendations to the FCC for the minimum requirements necessary to allow localities and regions to build out local systems as part of the 700 MHz nationwide, interoperable wireless broadband public safety network. These systems present an opportunity to gain information, practical experience, and infrastructure that can be leveraged for the nationwide network. In making these recommendations, the PSST’s primary goals are to ensure nationwide roaming, interoperability, and priority service among the local systems and the future nationwide public safety broadband network.

The PSST extends its thanks to NPSTC and the members of the Broadband Task Force for their efforts in developing the Report, and it is attaching the Report as an Appendix to this filing so that the Report can be included in the record and available for reference. The PSST also commends FCC for its efforts to advance the deployment of mission-critical broadband services to public safety.

Respectfully submitted,
Chief Harlin R. McEwen, Chairman, Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corporation
Written Ex Parte Communication, PS Docket No. 06-229, WT Docket No. 06-150

PSCR to Conduct New Digital Audio Testing

The Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) labs in Boulder, Colorado, will oversee new testing to assess digital audio quality in noisy public safety environments in January or February 2010.

In June 2008, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) released a report on the use of digital radio technology following results of federal testing at the Boulder labs that found some current digital systems have unintelligible audio in loud noise environments. The conclusions of the report, Interim Report and Recommendations: Fireground Noise and Digital Radio Transmissions, were based on 9 months of laboratory testing, and include a description of the testing protocol, findings, and analysis as well as providing important recommendations for the fire community. The test results indicated that digital communication needs improvement especially in high-noise environments.

The 2010 tests will differ somewhat from the original research in that they will use reference implementations of the radio systems rather than any specific manufacturers’ radios to establish a baseline minimum of performance that can be applied across manufacturers.

Narrowbanding Website

Visit NPSTC’s narrowbanding website accessible through the hot button link on the home page. Just added to the website, a link to: http://www.wirelessradio.net. This site provides important, up-to-date, time-sensitive and accurate information for FCC Part 90 Private Land Mobile Radio (LMR) licensees, system managers, consultants, integrators, sales and service facilities and radio end-users facing the 2013 VHF (150-174 MHz) and UHF (421-512 MHz) Narrowbanding Mandate

Virtual USA

Virtual USA [also accessible from a hot button on NPSTC’s home page] is an innovative information-sharing initiative, developed in collaboration with the emergency response community and state and local governments across the nation that helps federal, state, local, and tribal first responders communicate during emergencies.

Regulatory Update "Our first responders need interoperable tools to make accurate and timely decisions during emergencies," said DHS Secretary Napolitano. "Virtual USA makes it possible for new and existing technologies to work together seamlessly during disaster response and recovery and gives the public an opportunity to contribute information in real-time to support the efforts of police officers, firefighters and other emergency management officials."

Virtual USA links disparate tools and technologies in order to share the location and status of critical assets and information - such as power and water lines, flood detectors, helicopter-capable landing sites, emergency vehicle and ambulance locations, weather and traffic conditions, evacuation routes, and school and government building floor plans - across federal, state, local, and tribal governments.

Important Dates
Date Event Location
January 25 – 27, 2010 APCO Orlando, FL, (Winter Summit)
March 8 – 12, 2010 IWCE Las Vegas, NV
April 27 – 30, 2010 NASCIO Austin, TX
Publication Information

npstc quarterly is the newsletter of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC). NPSTC is a federation of organizations whose mission is to improve public safety communications and interoperability through collaborative leadership. Funding for the NPSTC newsletter is provided by the Department of Homeland Security, Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC) and the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC). We welcome questions, comments, and story ideas. Please contact the Support Office at 866 807-4755 or by email at support@npstc.org.

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