Friday, May 5, 2017

FirstNet -- Motorola buys Kodiak and AT&T keeps playing them along? PTT on LTE is not a big deal!

What we have today is Motorola buying Kodiak, so it can stay relevant in the Public Safety Broadband space; AT&T willing to open Public Safety to all its spectrum; and FirstNet vouching to have State plans done in June.

Motorola buying Kodiak Networks is a good move. Unfortunately, the market for Push-to-Talk will not be as big a play as everyone thinks. There’s a lot of hype surrounding the use of PTT, but we have to remember where all this PTT talk came from. The push for PTT originated from the Public Safety advocacy to the FirstNet Board. It was used as a primary fear adjustment to insuring Public Safety having a “end-all” variable of relevancy in FirstNet’s pursuit to bring in a carrier solution. You see Public Safety thought it could curb the enthusiasm surrounding the Boards intention of going the carrier route by highlighting a “big wall” that the carriers wouldn’t be able to conquer from the start. The problem is that Public Safety didn’t understand the true issues of PTT at all. The primary reason we don’t have PTT today is because there is no demand for it, thus no revenue, thus no reason for a carrier to pursue its implementation. It was never a technology issue, but rather a financial one. Once again that goes to highlight that combining a FirstNet business plan with a carrier specific revenue business plan will not work.

Motorola’s acquisition of Kodiak, and its PTT options, is a good move, at least for Moto that is. But, the technology’s relevance will still be scrutinized and underutilized, thus hard to maintain and fund throughout its development life-cycle and ultimately product life. The real question is why would Moto buy Kodiak right now? Maybe the primary reason for Moto buying Kodiak has to do with its relevance to the AT&T FirstNet team? The initial scope of the entire FirstNet solution really has nothing to do with the technical aspects of PTT at all. It’s all about the deployment, the prioritization, and the upgrades of existing tower infrastructures. The regional AT&T PMO organizations will not have time, thus no incentive, to help with any of the mobility concerns during the initial phase, thus no relevance for Moto. Why? Because the entire initial phase of the program is all about the design build portion of the solution. If Moto wants to push PTT devices, then it will need to interface, on its own, with the Public Safety organizations throughout the AT&T footprint of FirstNet services, thus its need to be on the AT&T team is questionable. But, at least they will have an inside track on what’s happening? In the end, AT&T doesn’t need Moto. Moto needs AT&T. After all, at a later date AT&T could deploy PTT on its own with a feature set upgrade, thus pushing Moto out once again.

The PTT is only being pushed onto AT&T because of it’s a requirement from FirstNet. If the requirement didn’t exist, I could almost guarantee you that the offering wouldn’t exist. But, there will be a limited life-span for PTT, that is until the guys carrying multiple radios realize that the feature-sets on the SMART phone do the job just fine. If not, then the First Responder will fall back to his LMR radios. This brings to light the real question here. Is PTT on LTE really necessary if you have an already existing, and working, LMR solution? A solution that has already been paid for? Would a Public Safety entity be willing to invest more in PTT or LMR? What about AT&T just augmenting its feature set with a PTT service offering what happens to LMR or Moto’s PTT? In the end, all AT&T has to do is insure "shoot" or "don't shoot" is heard to meet standard of PTT. 

AT&T decides to allow Public Safety priority access to all its spectrum holdings. Well, that’s nice, but a little late, plus it seems a little desperate if you ask me. Access and priority to all the geographic spectrum holdings of “other” carriers have been a part of the landscape for some time now. Verizon has contracts with many Public Safety agencies where it prioritizes and allows pre-emption already. Then again you have to ask yourself, why would a First Responder in Iowa need complete national coverage of spectrum in areas that he doesn’t patrol? A conference maybe? All this demonstrates is how reluctant AT&T has been in the past in allowing Public Safety a real place in its revenue based operations. You can’t blame AT&T though, after all its their network, they should be allowed to do what they want to their own network. Regardless, it doesn’t show very well, especially when they are trying to demonstrate the importance of Public Safety on their network. The real reason we are seeing AT&T open its spectrum is because of the Opt-Out States and the notion that AT&T may not get the 20 Mhz of D-Block spectrum promised to them by FirstNet. What good would parcels of scattered spectrum throughout the Union be? AT&T wants the contiguous use of spectrum nationwide. Small bits here and there, will not provide AT&T what AT&T wants -- note I did not say need.

You have to remember; AT&T was one of the original bidders for this segment of D-Block spectrum more than 10-years ago, before it was pulled back and given to Public Safety. Why? Because Public Safety needs its own network infrastructure – one that will actually survive a disaster and will reach those areas not covered today.  The only difference with AT&T’s solution today is that they get the spectrum for free during a cycle of upgrades they would be undertaking anyway, thus their $40 Billion investment. You see AT&T was going to make that investment even if FirstNet wasn’t around -- only now they get the valuable spectrum for free. All FirstNet has done is give the spectrum away and promise to pay AT&T – 6.5 Billion – for access to a network Public Safety already has access too. All FirstNet gets is the assurance it will have priority and a fixed budget for the next 25 years…what does the State get? The State gets absolutely nothing. Or, maybe the State will get a PTT solution to augment their already existing LMR system? Outside of that, the State has no real benefit to Opt-In, especially when they can get the same service today from their existing partners. The alternative is for the State to Opt-Out where it gets to control its own destiny; acquire its portion of the $6.5 Billion; have a fully funded Public Private Partnership; acquires a fixed solution of revenue income; and ultimately the ability to really put Public Safety first.

FirstNet is vouching to have the State plans done by June. Just another point in the timeline for FirstNet to boast about how its meeting the timeline objectives…useless.  I mean it’s only been 5 years since the law was signed. What I would like to see is the FirstNet business plan. What’s the product? How much revenue? What’s the distribution of revenue? Who has the controlling stake of the State solution? How will AT&T allow existing carriers to take part using their existing contracts? What incentives will there be for the State? How much will the service cost? If we see another design package, out fitted with available services, then it’s a failure. Anyone can design a network and illustrate some cool features. Getting a network to be fully funded, sustainable, produce revenue, and be the advantage above all others to the State and Public Safety is the real question.

But what do I know I’m…

Just some guy and a blog….

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