I attended the P25 Executive Summit earlier this month in Portland OR. DHS and the P25 Steering Committee organized the event to help shape the future of the P25 marketplace to ensure operable and interoperable public-safety and national security and emergency preparedness communications efforts. It seems that, after 25 years of P25, we don’t yet have interoperability between LMR systems that meet the needs of end users. And this will be come more problematic as LTE and LMR begin to co-exist in public safety.
For me, one key take-away was the explanation of how we became so mis – aligned, at least compared to the telephony world. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) unites Seven telecommunications standard development organizations and is a collaborative project aimed at developing globally acceptable specifications for third generation (3G) mobile systems, including LTE. In this environment, standards are developed AND THEN vendors develop products that meet the standards.
Contrast this with LMR and P25. In this environment, each P25 manufacturer has historic Human Machine Interface (HMI) preferences and develops their own implementation of the feature and then proposes their interface as a P25 Standard. Sometimes different implementations are both approved as a P25 standards causing confusion with the users as thee implementations meet the standard yet are incompatible with each other.
There were many suggestions as to how to help users navigate P25 interoperability, including:
• Improved P25 User Education and Training is needed
• Users need help to better understand the P25 Standards
• Improvements in distribution and access are needed to make P25 Education readily available to P25 User agencies
• Possible New document: P25 Facts and Myth page (simplistic layman’s terms)
• The use of Social media to disseminate videos, tweets, etc about P25. (Additional resources needed to do this).
• Consider developing a “P25 twitter verse” following for the P25 user community.
• Coordinate education efforts with DHS OEC, DHS OIC CAP, and APCO.
Education alone won’t help end users achieve interoperability between disparate networks be they P25, LTE or legacy. It will help end users understand the constraints of claims by manufacturers that they are P25 compliant yet cannot communicate with another vendor claiming also to be P25 compliant.