Paradoxically, even though P25 voice technology was created to enhance interoperability, in the short-run the coexistence of multiple generations of voice and data systems actually makes interoperability more complex. As organizations move forward with broadband voice, they should remember that there will inevitably be times when they will need to communicate with other agencies who are a generation or two behind them in technology.
Therefore, when selecting equipment, public safety organizations must not only look at their own internal communications needs, but also the equipment and capabilities of the other agencies with which they are likely to interact. Critically important, interactions with the other agencies must be reviewed in the context of the Concept of Operations (ConOps) to understand the likely use cases. For example, if it is necessary to have low-latency reliable tactical communications between personnel in the field, the radios must support direct-mode talk-around between agencies. Questions such as what are acceptable latencies for mission critical voice can only be answered in the context of well defined ConOps.
To make things even more complicated, the pace of change continues to increase. To avoid obsolescence of equipment in only a few years, public safety organizations should consider tomorrow’s ConOps when making today’s purchasing decisions. The addition of broadband LTE for both voice and data will revolutionize the way public safety personnel communicate with each other and with the public. As next generation 911 systems come online, field personnel will be able to easily speak with the emergency caller and have a complete call history, GPS locations and other information to allow them to perform their job more effectively and more safely. Command and control systems and situational awareness systems will augment voice.
Most public safety organizations are too small to realistically analyze the complex internal and external interactions that have been or will become necessary. Consequently, organizations like APCO, and government agencies such as NIST and the NTIA are becoming increasingly important to ensure public safety has the tools it needs to communicate and coordinate. For them to do their job effectively, requirements and good ideas must bubble up from public safety organizations. Make