When asked about the possibility of first responders using LTE repeaters in vehicles as an alternative to direct-mode communication, Brda reiterated his position that an adequate solution does not exist today or in the approved by 3GPP, the standards body that oversees LTE technology.

“Not that have been investigated in the standards process to date,” Brda said. “One way that has been discussed is actually to carry two devices—LMR to provide the direct mode—but that doesn’t really meet the objective of a replacement; it means you’re going to continue to use two devices.

“We participate in every aspect of the 3GPP standards, especially around mission-critical operation, and we’re not aware of a great solution for this that will be available in the foreseeable future.”

Indeed, no LTE direct-mode solutions are on the market today. However, the LTE standard has included direct-mode functionality—known as proximity services, or “pro se”—since Release 12 was completed in 2015. The completion of the mission-critical-push-to-talk (MCPTT) standard last year as part of Release 13 has some industry observers projecting that equipment could be available as early as late this year or during the first half of next year.

Brown also expressed doubts that FirstNet would provide a service that could threaten LMR voice services in the near term.

“I view FirstNet as additive, period, for quite a long time,” Brown said. “It’s a data and video network for interoperable broadband that will interface with our narrowband, mission-critical voice network.

“I think the big differences between a private network and a cellular network are things around coverage and capacity, cost and coverage. There’s hardened encryption. There are so many different things that go into making a private, always-on, reliable, secure, purpose-built network, along with the devices that are very unique to the value proposition of public safety versus a FirstNet or cellular-type network.”

Today, many first responders carry two devices: mission-critical LMR radio and smart device that provides data connectivity via a commercial LTE network, according to Brown. With FirstNet, the smart-device subscription may change, but Brown does not believe the LMR device will be replaced.

 “We see that scenario replicating, in which case that second new device is a greenfield opportunity for us,” he said. “If those devices merge over time at some point in the future, we are better positioned than anybody—given our domain expertise, the latency and demand requirements around public safety—to provide the integrated device. But, if that happens, I see that as a long way off. So, FirstNet we see as purely incremental.”