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At the 2012 International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) this week in Las Vegas, public service radio users were gambling that their new nationwide LTE network dedicated to public service users will fly and that money will be there to run it. In the exhibit hall, some 330 exhibitors showcased the latest products and services for first responders, fleet managers and private radio networks, commonly called Land Mobile Radio.

Narrowbanding is on the minds of many attendees. An FCC Order in December 2004 mandated that VHF radios (150-174 MHz) and UHF (421-512 MHz) radios, operating legacy wideband (25 kHz bandwidth) voice or data, must migrate to narrower channels (12.5 kHz bandwidth or equivalent) by January 1, 2013.

But there is mounting evidence that many licensees will fail to meet the deadline, says Urgent.com. Last year, the FCC indicated that 225,000 licensees needed to narrowband their systems, but only about 20% of those have completed the task, according to Peter Moncure, CEO of RadioSoft. Licensees that do not have a plan to narrowband may not be able to secure the regulatory and technical resources needed to meet the year-end deadline, according to numerous industry sources.

Cellular companies were pushing their concept of push-to-talk for 3G and 4G commercial cellular networks.

  • Alcatel-Lucent is demonstrating LTE push to talk, and multistream video. Alcatel-Lucent will have its Striker 1 mobile command vehicle on the show floor, operating live on Band 14 LTE to demonstrate its communications capabilities, including the ability to connect P25 and broadband networks in a push-to-talk environment. “I’ll hit the push-to-talk button on the P25 radio, go through the gateway, out to LTE and to Wi-Fi, and you’ll hear my voice on the iPad,” said Fred Scalera, public-safety director for Alcatel-Lucent.
  • Qualcomm announced a LTE to WCDMA call using one of its MSM8960 Snapdragon S4 chipsets, and a VoIP-over-LTE connection. Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) is a 3GPP specified feature that enables seamless switching between a 4G network and a 3G network.
  • Sprint said its recent testing of Sprint Direct Connect — its next generation, broadband push-to-talk service — met or exceeded expectations in call setup time, push-to-talk latency and call success rates versus the company’s iDEN-based push-to-talk service. The results stem from testing performed by a third-party in which more than 76,000 test calls of Sprint’s push-to-talk services were made in 17 markets. Sprint’s Network Vision will consolidate multiple network technologies into one seamless network. The first step is dumping Nextel’s iDen in favor of 3G CDMA, which will extend their CDMA-based voice and data network to the 850 MHz band and feature push to talk.
  • AT&T hopes to bring push-to-talk services to its network. The new services will rely on a technology from Kodiak Networks, a PTT pioneer. The technology, dubbed InstaPoC, is an IP-based technology that allows carriers to deliver voice over LTE, 3G networks and Wi-Fi. In addition to providing PTT-enabled smartphones, AT&T will be testing IP-based technologies, using AT&T’s cellular network, for fleet management and dispatch.
  • Voice over HSPA could also allow operators to deliver voice. Both mobile operators and consumers stand to benefit significantly from innovative, robust and efficient services like Voice over HSPA and VoLTE, says 4G Americas (pdf)
  • The eVoice Mobile App allows owners of iOS and Android devices to make and receive phone calls via a WiFi connection or a 3G/4G network using VoIP, transforming any mobile device into a multi-purpose phone system while saving valuable cellular minutes.

Many believe Mission-Critical Voice Over LTE is now a better use of the Public Safety Narrow-Band channels.

Voice Over LTE could make the 700-MHz nationwide IWN network obsolete.

Consultant Andrew Seybold thinks replacing the Narrowband channels with Voice Over LTE is not realistic. He thinks narrowband voice for public safety will be around for a decade or more.

IWN has been repeatedly scaled back. Funding was cut in fiscal 2010 and then again in fiscal 2011, and has been suspended altogether for fiscal 2012.

The Department of Homeland Security is no longer participating in the nationwide narrowband IWN effort, cutting the total number of projected users to about 30,000, and, according to the inspector general report, future participation of the Department of the Treasury appears unlikely.

The President’s 2012 budget recommended suspension of the narrowband IWN program, citing new alternatives like 3G and 4G wireless networks as well as the development of a National Public Safety Broadband Plan which can integrate both broadband data and voice.

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Related Dailywireless articles include; FCC Gets Unlicensed White Spaces in Payroll Tax Bill, LTE Map of U.S., FCC Gets Autonomy in Payroll Tax Bill, FCC Plans Improved Rural Wireless Broadband, Municipal Networks: Good for Cities?, Spectrum Legislation: Democracy Now!, White Space War, SF Approves Dedicated LTE Network for First Responders, Alca-Lu’s LTE Public Safety Network, D-Block Legislation Stalled, Seybold: Furgetabout Video on LTE Public Safety Band, Broadband Disability Act, Public Service Radio Convention, Public Safety Net Removed from Debt Ceiling Bill, The D-Block Gamble

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