AT&T supports the notion that in-building systems supporting first-responder communications on FirstNet should meet public-safety-grade requirements for coverage and resiliency, but questions remain about the business model for building owners that are expected to provide most—if not all—of the funding.

Steve Devine, AT&T’s director of public-safety policy and strategy for FirstNet, said that in-building coverage requirement for FirstNet on 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum should mirror the requirements that fire codes have for land-mobile-radio (LMR) systems, not just a typical in-building commercial deployment. This would require additional hardening of the systems and mandate coverage in areas of structures where public-safety works.

“FirstNet is a public-safety network—it’s public safety’s network,” Devine said yesterday during a session at IWCE 2022 coordinated by the Safer Buildings Coalition (SBC). “We really feel that the in-building solution really needs to be a step up beyond what we would do commercially in those buildings. We have a model that works in conjunction with OEMs and integrators to bring the signal source to that building, so the DAS providers can work with that and work with the building owner in that space.

“We really think that Band 14 should be built to that higher bar that the jurisdiction is expecting of the LMR spectrum in that building. We think those stairwells, bathrooms, electrical rooms and the pump rooms—those areas that may not get covered in a commercial space—we think Band 14 should provide coverage in those facilities.”

In the past, getting AT&T to provide a signal source to a building has been problematic, because the process could take nine months or longer—a timeline that does not work well with tight schedules associated with building construction. Doug McElroy, the principal RF engineer at AT&T, said the carrier is working to reduce that signal-source processing time to six weeks.

Such commitments from AT&T and SBC represent significant strides in clarifying the technical and process landscapes associated with providing in-building communications to public-safety personnel. However, one of the biggest challenges associated with in-building deployment—convincing a building owner to pay for an in-building system designed to support first responders—appears to continue to be a challenge.

Written by Donny Jackson 23rd March 2022

AT&T calls for LMR-like hardening, coverage for FirstNet in-building systems