Harald Ludwig, chairman of The Critical Communications Association (TCCA) Technical Forum, said the deployment of FirstNet will be the primary driver of MCPTT adoption by public safety in the U.S.

“I believe public-safety users will move to FirstNet as soon as it’s as good—or better—than the current service that they have,” Ludwig said during an IWCE 2018 panel. “As soon as FirstNet offers them the same radio coverage, the same availability and the same security, they will move over to FirstNet.

“When will this happen? I think it’s mainly dependent on AT&T and how fast they can harden the network and how fast they can build additional site. So, it’s difficult for me to estimate the timeframe, but it will take some years, I am sure.”

Mike Barney, director of public-safety programs for Cubic and a former employee of Kodiak Networks and the state of Texas, agreed that public safety must first become comfortable with MCPTT, something that may not happen until the technology proves to work well during an emergency response in the wake of major disaster. If MCPTT proves to be effective, government economics may play a large role in determining the speed of adoption, he said.

“When budgets get tight, the technical guys, the radio managers and the IT managers don’t necessarily get to make the choices,” Barney said during an IWCE 2018 session. “The choice may be made for you that you’re not going to get your $50 million LMR upgrade.”

LMR upgrades may still be funded in the near term, particularly if a radio system already has reached its end of life and is no longer supported by the manufacturer, Barney said. However, for entities that upgraded their LMR systems to meet the FCC’s narrowbanding mandate in 2013, MCPTT could prove to be a viable alternative to an expensive LMR upgrade in 5-7 years, he said.

“Once these proof points are made or if an economic downturn happens, I predict that they will actually end of life their systems early and start moving forward with mission-critical LTE,” Barney said. “By 2025, I think that you’re going to have a very large number of agencies that have developed plans and start the transition.”

Seybold asked the MCPTT timing question to the speakers on the IWCE 2018 panel he moderated, but he indicated that the transition from LMR could take longer than most expect.

“Ten years from now, I’ll ask you the same question, and I know that somebody else will say, ‘Ten more years,’” Seybold said.