Catalyst wins DHS contract to develop internetworking for MCPTT-LMR communications

A nice article from Donny Jackson with Urgent Communications about our DHS Award and his follow on interview with Robin Grier, president of Catalyst Communications Technologies 

Interworking LogoCatalyst Communications today announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded the company with a contract worth as much as $1 million to develop an interworking solution between LMR and 3GPP-standard mission-critical-push-to-talk (MCPTT) offerings that could be commercially available next year.

Catalyst President Robin Grier said that the company’s solution would be compliant with the 3GPP interworking standard and would support interoperability between MCPTT and all LMR systems.

“While we all support Project 25 and recognize that it’s the gold standard, we also recognize that many, many public-safety agencies and critical communicators don’t have Project 25—and many who do [use P25] don’t have ISSI or don’t have the capacity on their ISSI to support all of the talk groups that they would like to have interoperate with FirstNet or another networks that support MCPTT,” Grier said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

“Catalyst is building a solution that will allow interoperability not just with P25 and not just P25 with ISSI, but different types of P25—including conventional P25—using the Digital Fixed Station Interface, as well as being able to connect to legacy trunked systems, to DMR systems and other systems.”

DHS awarded the Phase II contract to Catalyst after a selection process that was conducted after the company competed in the Phase I feasibility stage of the project last year. Catalyst hopes to demonstrate its interworking product at IWCE 2020 next March and make a commercial offering of the solution “soon after that,” Grier said.

“We’re certainly looking for those initial agencies that would like to begin using interworking interoperability between MCPTT and LMR,” he said, noting that entities interested in participating in the development of the internetworking solution should contact Catalyst. “We’re eager to engage with those folks to get initial versions out as carriers fully implement supporting infrastructure that will be able to do more and more on our side.”

MCPTT has not been deployed yet, AT&T has announced that FirstNet subscribers will have a choice of at least two MCPTT offerings from different vendors during the second half of this year. Near-term adoption of MCPTT could be impacted by the ability for users to interoperate with legacy LMR systems, which is why DHS is helping fund development of an interworking solution, according to Grier.

“I believe [MCPTT] is coming, and I believe the demand for it is going to be high,” Grier said. “But it’s not going to be successful until there is the ability to interoperate between our bread-and-butter land-mobile-radio systems and these new MCPTT devices. Without some way to connect push to talk on those multiple system, [MCPTT] is not going to go very far.

“This is critical work for our country to be able to have this capability. We’re honored to be selected.”

Having a commercial MCPTT offering in the marketplace will play a big role in helping Catalyst develop a real-world interworking solution, Grier said.

“We can begin the development in our lab,” he said. “Our plan is to test our solution on the FirstNet system before we bring it out to a public-safety agency and tell them, ‘We’re ready to try this at your place.’”

While Catalyst officials are confident that an interworking solution can be developed, Grier noted that there some items still need to be “sorted out,” such as where the solution would reside.

“I think the carrier needs to decide how they want that to work, in terms of where they want it to sit,” Grier said. “Obviously, public-safety agencies need to have a lot of control over their talk groups and particularly their LMR channels—what gets routed to them and how busy they get.”

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