SOLiD on LinkedIn SOLiD YouTube Channel SOLiD on Twitter SOLiD Blog

5 Revelations for Indoor Public-Safety Communications

By Mike Collado
October 15th, 2015

I had the privilege recently to join two of my favorite public-safety subject matter experts – Donny Jackson (editor at Urgent Communications) and Chief Alan Perdue (executive director at Safer Buildings Coalition) – to discuss trends for indoor public-safety communications during an hour-long webinar.

Specifically, five revelations (or lessons, observations, finding, epiphanies…) that have bubbled to the surface for me from the research and subsequent discussions around the eBook SOLiD published in partnership with Hutton Communications this summer: The Imperative.

The Imperative is an introduction to some of the key questions and challenges we frequently encounter within the market regarding fire and building code requirements for indoor public-safety communications; technology solutions; and funding and ownership for these in-building networks. Read more from our pre-APCO 2015 post here.

The title – The Imperative – was purposely chosen… We believe that it is imperative that both the general public and public-safety first responders are able to communicate indoors should there be an emergency. Meaning that the public can be notified and call for help, and that first responders can communicate with one another, with command and with building occupants.

Here are the 5 revelations… Be sure to check out the free webinar for more information and in-depth discussion. And please let us know what you think!


Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 1.43.15 PM

Revelation #1: We tend to overlook the “public” part of public safety

Most people think about police, fire and EMS and special Land Mobile Radios (LMRs) when they think about public safety. What is overlooked is the critical role that the general public and their smartphones (and feature phones – thanks Michael Dube for pointing that out on the webinar) play in public safety. This is a key shift in paradigm: a call from the public to 911 initiates the response from first responders; notifications from first responders provide instructions to the public. As Chief Perdue says, “If you can’t call us, we can’t help you.” The new public-safety paradigm requires a holistic view that includes both the general public and traditional public-safety participants. (Read more about this topic in our summary post for APCO 2015.)

line space

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 1.35.08 PM

Revelation #2: We’re applying traditional outside-in thinking to solve a new indoor market reality

The majority of cellular calls occur indoors. Similarly, the majority of emergencies occur indoors. So why is public-safety communications being addressed as a last-mile problem with an outside-in approach that relies upon the macro wireless network (both cellular and public safety if you agree with me on Revelation #1)? Given the facts, we should reverse field and instead view public-safety communications as a first-mile problem to be solved through an inside-out in-building wireless network strategy.

line space

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 1.48.22 PM

Revelation #3: Fire and building codes are complex for myriad stakeholders

With two fire code organizations (International Code Council and National Fire Protection Association) that publish model codes in different years which take years to be adopted at the discretion of each individual jurisdiction, it’s complicated and complex for stakeholders to navigate requirements for indoor public-safety communications. At a minimum, the lack of uniformity hinders a repeatable process for achieving the mission of Chief Perdue’s organization of making buildings safer. Further, the stakeholders – including public safety, building owners, wireless operators and technology manufacturers – often do not have a seat at the table to influence the creation of the codes. (Learn how Safer Buildings Coalition is helping)

line space

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 2.15.55 PM

Revelation #4: Building safety systems should be paid for by the building owner

Indoor public-safety communications (once again, both cellular and public safety if you agree with me on Revelation #1) are akin to fire sprinkler systems: part of a safety system funded by the building as part of a code requirement. Like the sprinklers, those upfront costs can be recovered downstream via revenue from tenants. Is it a financial burden? Yes. But a “safe building” and/or one that enables cellular coverage is an asset to attract tenants, increase property value and retain tenants (learn more at WiredScore). We look to creative business models such as sharing in certain network expenses, tax breaks, insurance incentives and Good Samaritan laws to help advance funding of these networks by the building owner.

line space

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 2.44.25 PM

Revelation #5: Convergence of indoor commercial cellular and public safety doesn’t make sense until FirstNet

It’s enticing to explore a strategy of converging commercial cellular and public safety on the same in-building distributed antenna system (DAS) network. After all, isn’t that the premise behind FirstNet: leveraging the commercial cellular macro network assets to build a broadband public-safety network? Set aside reliability and resiliency requirements for mission critical public-safety communications for a moment… The key reason to keep them separate t0day is interference. Specifically, an in-building public-safety network requires 25% of the significantly denser antennae infrastructure that supports commercial cellular LTE service. But, when FirstNet gets rolled out, the network will also be LTE – which suggests that the required in-building commercial cellular and public-safety DAS infrastructure will similarly map and support a converged network strategy. At that time, reliability and resiliency as well as coverage at locations such as stairwells and underground parking coverage areas which are critical in public safety, will need to be addressed).

Email this to someoneShare on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

Is it Possible to Avoid “Rip and Replace”?

By Mike Collado
October 5th, 2015
Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 11.22.40 AM

Photo courtesy of NEDAS

Last week I had the privilege to moderate a panel on design and infrastructure trends at the NEDAS Toronto Workshops & Social. Joining me were Alex Berezhnoy (LinkWave); Ron Poulin (BTI Wireless) and Edmond Zauner (Anritsu).

As a starting point, we referenced James Carlini who states that: All the cabling needed to build the network should fit the lifespan of the building, not the lifespan of the technology that is hanging off of it.

I challenged the panelists, “Is that realistic?”

An easy approach is to examine whether the building is greenfield (new construction) or brownfield (existing construction). If the former, there is a chance to achieve obsolescence avoidance by pulling additional fiber. After all, fiber – theoretically – is nearly infinitely scalable. But there’s potentially more to it.

Is it a Tier 1 (>500k sq. ft.) or Tier 2 building? Logic suggests that a Tier 1 venue such as a stadium would boast a budget capable of “over-engineering” the infrastructure to future-proof it. On the other hand, stadia tend to be most impacted by the data tsunami. Many of the in-building systems succumb to a “rip and replace” scenario after a few short years of use.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 11.27.05 AMA Tier 2 building – which we call the middleprise – comes with different challenges. Namely, a requirement for a lower total solution cost compared to mainstream Tier 1 in-building projects. Will there be budget to pull additional infrastructure? And to address existing venues, will solutions providers need to find ways to leverage existing fiber and copper infrastructure with an understanding that perfection is the enemy of good. IOW, solve the problem today.

In addition to the size of the building, what goes on inside the building may challenge whether the infrastructure gets modeled after the building or the technology lifespan. How we approach a hospital may be different from an office building – at least from a level of acceptability for the “cost of disruption” which Carlini describes.

Other factors include whether multiple operators and wireless services will be supported. While it is pretty standard to support commercial cellular and WiFi, it is less clear on whether there is a public-safety communications requirement. As mobile use evolves, the placement of cellular antennae and access points must be flexible to meet changing densification needs. And public-safety may or may not be able to share infrastructure with commercial services; currently, it may not be advantageous, but when FirstNet (LTE) gets rolled out, perhaps sharing infrastructure has both technical and business benefits. (Learn more about public-safety codes, solutions and business models in The Imperative)

In the September issue of AGL’s Small Cell Magazine, I observed in an article entitled “The Middleprise: A Big and Complicated Market Opportunity” that: …the ideal infrastructure needs to provide a converged network where a single backbone serves multiple services including commercial cellular, public-safety and IP (WiFi). This optimal approach enables the infrastructure to stay in place while the end pieces get swapped out to avoid expense rip and replace. 

Indeed, obsolescence avoidance is a goal. But its long-term outcome may need to be tempered with the need to achieve current timeline and TCO budget requirements.

For more on design and infrastructure, hear from iBwave during our middleprise tour of the host hotel from DAS Congress 2015.

What do you think?

Email this to someoneShare on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

The “Middleprise” is Conspicuously Absent at CTIA

By Mike Collado
September 8th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 2.26.00 PMA quick glance at the agenda for the education sessions at CTIA’s Super Mobility 2015 reveals a continued steady diet of Small Cells, C-RAN and Large Venues but little to no exploration of the Middleprise (the middle-enterprise market that is defined as venues having 100k to 500k square feet). And that seems like a big miss.

This triumvirate of topics falls into either the category of old news or premature news.

In spite of bold predictions that include the death knell for of DAS (distributed antenna system) or the prognostication of the year of the small cell, small cells are not seeing widespread take-up, a reality David Chambers at ThinkSmallCell observed in the more somber tone at Small Cells World earlier this summer.

Although C-RAN – which Frank Rayal at Zona Partners refers to as “the software base station” – has gained traction with China Mobile and SK Telecom in markets that are challenged by the “data tsunami”, here is the U.S., the “capacity crunch” is not yet acute; we’re still focused on solving for coverage.

Finally, Large Venues (Tier 1 venues having over 1 Million square feet like stadiums, arenas and large college campuses) “are nearing the saturation point” according to Jim O’Gorman (Communications Engineering LLC).

The Middleprise is neither old news or premature news. The market is real and ready, and represents a once-in-a-decade opportunity for new market leadership.

In a recent contributed article to AGL’s Small Cell Magazine, I define the Middleprise as a potential $20B dollar market that consists of hotels, hospitals, college buildings, retail and multi-level Class A office towers where people rely upon smartphones to stay connected and safe. Oh, and less than 2% of this space has been addressed.

According to Earl Lum at EJL Wireless Research, the industry will migrate downstream from the Tier 1 venues to the Tier 1.5 and 2 Middleprise.

The Middleprise is a big deal. It challenges the technology toolkit, funding and business models, design and infrastructure considerations, and how venues will comply with fire and building code requirements for indoor public-safety communications.

Team SOLiD will discuss the Middleprise challenges and opportunities this week at SOLiD Basecamp (PMR #306 at Sands Expo). Please schedule time to meet or drop by to fuel up and visit one of our learning kiosks.

Safe travels and see you in Las Vegas!


Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 8.29.25 AM



Email this to someoneShare on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook

The “Public” in Public-Safety Communications

By Mike Collado
August 25th, 2015

IMG_1676The 2015 APCO Annual Conference was both pivotal and revelatory for the advancement of in-building public-safety communications.

Team SOLiD returned to APCO for the fourth year which, for a Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) manufacturer, makes us a veteran.

I recall feeling like a pioneer in 2012 while discussing in-building wireless solutions with AHJs (Authorities Having Jurisdiction) when the conference was hosted in Minneapolis during which the first board members were announced for the nascent FirstNet initiative. Little did I know then that SOLiD would host the newly-elected FirstNet CEO Michael Poth and newly-titled President TJ Kennedy as well as current and former board members Chief Jeff Johnson and Chief Charles “Chuck” Dowd at a cocktail reception to launch a new eBook called The Imperative which details the obstacles and options facing public-safety communications inside public and private buildings. (Thanks to the Long View Gallery for hosting our reception!)

(Check our APCO recap posts from 2012, 2013 and 2014 to map the public-safety evolution. And watch videos from industry luminaries Jonathan Adelstein (PCIA), Rob LeGrande (The Digital Decision), James Teel (Harris) and SOLiD’s Seth Buechley)

A pivotal shift has occurred within the public-safety industry whereby the topic of in-building is no longer met with a puzzled or skeptical look.

When SOLiD presented back in 2012, we observed in a blog post that “Based upon the number of heads that were both nodding in agreement and disagreement during the panel, the public safety and commercial cellular industries need more forums for debate and education as well as programs designed to solve the common problem of public safety communication.”

In contrast, an industry colleague was surprised that nearly every attendee in his presentation this year was familiar with DAS.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 3.24.02 PMBut while developing The Imperative (download a free copy here), it became clear – as its editor, John Celentano, states in the eBook’s opening pages – that, “…public-safety communications is not relegated to police, fire and emergency medical services (EMS). Its about the general public, too.”

This is revelatory because most people likely envision a fire fighter when they think of the words “public” and “safety.” As Don Brittingham, Vice President for Public Safety Policy at Verizon observed during our launch reception, the general public is the “public” in public safety.

Donny Jackson, Editor at Urgent Communications contributed to the foreward of The Imperative and writes:

“From a public-safety perspective, good indoor coverage for customers and first responders provides multiple benefits during an emergency response.

Initially, strong commercial indoor coverage lets consumers who are indoors dial 911 to report an emergency via their cellular phone—the device they are most comfortable using, and it should provide better location information in the near future. This can save valuable time in circumstances when seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

Once first responders are on the scene, a good indoor public-safety system allows firefighters, law enforcement and EMS to communicate better and more efficiently using LMR voice today, with the potential to leverage Band 14 LTE and transmit sensor data via myriad technologies in the near future. This data capability includes the ability to track the location of first responders, as well as monitor their health via biometric technology.

When first-response efforts have gone awry, communications difficulties almost always are cited as a key contributing factor. This is understandable, because organizing any endeavor—from the construction of a sports arena to planning a family reunion—tends to happen more smoothly when strong lines of communications are open.

In short, a facility with good indoor wireless-communications coverage for consumers and public safety is inherently safer than those that lack this functionality. Without good indoor coverage, there likely will a delay in reporting an emergency situation and the response effort often is delayed, which can lead to increased property loss, injuries and fatalities.”


Chief Alan Perdue (Safer Buildings Coalition), Mike Collado (SOLiD) and Donny Jackson (Urgent Communications)

This observation was echoed on a panel moderated by Donny Jackson where I joined Chief Alan Perdue, Executive Director of the Safer Buildings Coalition (SOLiD is a member). Chief Perdue shared that the majority of 911 calls are made using a smartphone and that, similarly, the majority of emergency incidents occur indoors.

According to John Celentano, “…it is vital that both public safety and commercial cellular to work together to solve for public-safety communications.” 

The common denominator, however, is the Building Owner – the key stakeholder that can impact in-building wireless communications for both cellular and public-safety – who, unfortunately, remains noticeably absent from these discussions at APCO.

We’ll be back with a separate post to explore the challenges and opportunities for the Building Owner to address the public-safety imperative.

Tell us what you observed at APCO that is pivotal and/or revelatory in the comments.



Contributors to The Imperative: John Celentano (Editor), Donny Jackson (Urgent Communications), Clark Lazare (AT&T), Mike Collado (SOLiD), Manuel Ojeda (Morcom), Chief Charles “Chuck” Dowd, Chief Alan Perdue (Safer Buildings Coalition), Lori Blair (Hutton Communications) and Rob LeGrande (The Digital Decision)



Chief Charles “Chuck” Dowd discusses the public-safety imperative



Chief Alan Perdue discusses collaboration among venues, wireless operators and public safety



Mike Collado (SOLiD) and Lori Blair (Hutton Communications) welcome attendees to The Imperative launch reception



SOLiD Quad-Band Public-Safety DAS at the Hutton booth



SOLiD’s Ken Haberer and Matt Atkins at the APCO Block Party hosted at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum



Matt Atkins (SOLiD) and Chief Alan Perdue (Safer Buildings Coalition) at the APCO Block Party



Delivering thought leadership at APCO



Bike Art at the Washington Convention Center. There were also kitchen stools, kayaks and guitars!

Email this to someoneShare on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook