Vendors from around the globe demonstrated significant interoperability during last week’s ETSI plugtests for mission-critical-push-to-talk (MCPTT), mission-critical-data (MCDATA) and mission-critical-video (MCVIDEO), posting a 92% success rate overall, according to ETSI officials.

Not only does the 92% success rate exceed the 85% success rate of last year’s ETSI plugtests for LTE Release 13 MCPTT, but the improvement was achieved while including 50% more vendors and two new Release 14 standards—MCDATA and MCVIDEO, according to Saurav Arora, ETSI MCPTT Plugtests manager.

“I think it was a great success,” Arora said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “I think it was a great achievement, in terms of interoperability.

“Last year, we had 20 vendors [with 40 test cases]. This time, we had 31 vendors and 100 test cases, so 2,000 test cases were run over 300 sessions. I would say that it’s a great achievement, in terms of interoperability.”

Communications interoperability between vendors has been a longtime challenge for public safety in the land-mobile-radio (LMR) arena, making the interoperability success rate at the ETSI event especially impressive. Some of the test sessions included four or more different vendors participating in a given test session.

“When we planned the schedule for MCPTT, we had an MCPTT client from one vendor, IMS from a different vendor and the MCPTT application server from another vendor,” Arora said.

“There can be 13 different configurations, because an application server can split between participating and controlling, so there can be two vendors there. And, you can put the LTE infrastructure into different configurations.”

Of course, successful interoperability can be demonstrated between vendors only if each of the components being tested is operable. Arora said the ETSI plugtests should give public-safety entities confidence that MCPTT products can work properly as they become commercially available toward the end of this year and throughout 2019.

“If you look at the number of tests that were run [and the success percentage], I really believe we can feel confident about the operability [of MCPTT],” Arora said. “I would say that we can even feel confident about the interoperability, not just the operability.”

Providing users such confidence is a primary benefit of ETSI plugtests, according to Harald Ludwig, chairman of TCCA’s Technical Forum.

“This event shows how productive the relatively small critical communications industry can be when it collaborates and works together towards a common goal,” Ludwig said in a prepared statement. “It is essential that exhaustive tests are conducted to ensure the end user can completely rely on their equipment in a crisis situation.”

Hosted by the Texas A&M Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center (ITEC) at the Disaster City in College Station, Texas, the 2018 MCPTT Plugtests event was organized by ETSI and supported by TCCA, Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR), the Public Safety Technology Alliance (PSTA) and the European Commission.

ETSI’s press release noted that representatives from the following organizations observed the MCPTT, MCDATA and MCVIDEO testing: AT&T, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the French Ministry of Interior, TCCA, Southern Linc Wireless, the UK Home Office and Verizon Wireless. Also attending the event were representatives from FirstNet.

“We were pleased to attend and observe the MCPTT plugtest,” according to statement from a FirstNet spokesperson. “It is great to see the increased global interest in pursuing standards for mission critical services. The FirstNet Authority looks forward to continuing to represent public safety’s interest within forums like this plugtest and international standards bodies.”

Although ETSI released aggregate statistics regarding the success rate of the interoperability testing, no information about the performance of any individual company’s components is available publicly.

However, Motorola Solutions—the public-safety communications giant that is slated to play a key role in FirstNet and the Emergency Services Network (ESN) in the UK—provided some clarifications about the company’s components that were tested during last week’s ETSI event. Motorola Solutions, which last year bought LTE push-to-talk provider Kodiak, made an MCPTT application server—as well as an MCDATA application server—available for the interoperability tests.

“Our WAVE Push-To-Talk over broadband portfolio has been tested [during the ETSI Plugtests], which is based on the mission-critical Kodiak architecture,” according to a Motorola Solutions statement provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

Motorola Solutions did not provide an MCPTT client for the ETSI testing.

“We tested a product release of the server only,” according to a Motorola Solutions statement. “Our business model is based on providing system solutions.”