With the continuing improvement of cellular technology, legacy land mobile radio (LMR) systems are being replaced with more cost-effective options to communicate. This option is a two-way network. Two of the most widely-used two-way networks include FirstNet, which was developed by AT&T to deliver uninterrupted communications to first responders, and the Wave OnCloud Push to Talk (PTT) network which was created through a partnership between Motorola Solutions and Verizon.
We’re going to compare FirstNet, and Wave OnCloud systems based on,
- Advantages and Disadvantages of FirstNet and Wave OnCloud networks
- FirstNet and On Cloud Eligible Devices
- Popular FirstNet and WAVE Push-to-Talk accessories
- Determining which systems best fits your needs.
Advantages and Disadvantages of FirstNet and OnCloud
The First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, was made to solve the issues of connection dropouts and lag times that had been frequently experienced by law enforcement officers, paramedics, and firefighters in crucial moments. The federal government partnered with AT&T to build the FirstNet infrastructure in 2012, and the First Responder Network Authority was established as an independent agency under the Department of Commerce.
The differences between FirstNet and a traditional cellular network include a variety of items:
- FirstNet uses a different spectrum than a regular network. It is based on a 20 MHz wide area of the spectrum which was allocated under the 2012 Spectrum Act and is located at 758-768 MHz and 788-798 MHz.
- Provides priority and preemption for specific users, which ensures that important messages get through and enhances operational efficiency.
- Offers features such as LTE Broadcast, MCPTT (Mission Critical Push to Talk), and Z-axis location capability.
The WAVE network by Motorola and Verizon was built to connect workgroups in hospitality, manufacturing, utility, education, and many other industries. Similar to FirstNet, WAVE OnCloud was produced to address the critical need of instant, reliable voice communications for networked teams. The product is a software and is used through a downloadable app.
- The application provides a PTT service across radios, mobile phones, and desktop computers with a push of a button.
- WAVE offers presence, messaging, and location sharing directly in-app.
- The cloud computing capability delivers rapid deployment time, predictable usage costs, and seamless software updates.
- MOTOTRBO customers can access the product’s benefits by connecting their system to a broadband network.
- Motorola’s Team Communications feature allows users to collaborate through voice, text, or application from anywhere. This enables voice, group text, messaging, location, and data sharing from radios, smartphones, or laptops and tablets operating on LMR, WI-fi, or commercial 3G or 4G networks.
Comparing Both Systems
The major difference between FirstNet and WAVE OnCloud is that the FirstNet system is a physical infrastructure throughout the United States which is designated for first responders, while WAVE OnCloud is a downloadable application that utilizes cloud computing, and it is primarily geared towards the commercial industry.
The tables below shows FirstNet data plans for both mobile pooled plans and mobile unlimited plans.
FirstNet Mobile-Pooled Plans (as of September 2020)
FirstNet Mobile-Unlimited Plans (as of September 2020)
WAVE OnCloud Plans
Motorola’s WAVE OnCloud service has a much simpler pricing model, and is primarily subscription-based. WAVE OnCloud pricing, as of September 2020, are,
- The WAVE PTT Mobile Application costs $8 per month
- WAVE PTT Web Dispatch is an upgraded service, which allows for web log-in, multimedia messaging, unlimited PTT calls, and location tracking and mapping. This license costs $32 per month and is for commercial use only.
- To use the WAVE PTT Mobile service, you must use the Motorola Wave TLK-100 Two-Way Radio. For the radio and monthly subscription, you’ll pay $35 per month.
- Purchased by itself, the TLK-100 is about $350.
- Motorola also offers the TLK-150, a vehicle mobile radio that is also $35 per month.
- Utilize LMR interoperability by connecting MOTOTRBO with WAVE for seamless use across radios. This additional service costs $5 per month.
First.Net is eligible on devices by Motorola and Harris, offering the advantage of full compatibility on existing two-way radios. The top models used by law enforcement and public safety professionals are:
- Motorola APX All-Band P25 Portable Radio
- L3Harris XL-185p Single Band Portable Radio
- L3Harris XL-200p Multi-Band Portable Radio
- FirstNet Sonim XP5, XP6, XP7, and XP8
The WAVE OnCloud system is a bit different and requires the use of a specific radio model to use the service. As mentioned above, the two primary radios available are:
- Motorola TLK-100
- Motorola TLK-150
The WAVE service can also be added to MOTOTRBO systems using the WAVE Gateway. Currently, location mapping and text messaging are not available for broadband clients/radio systems.
Law enforcement and public safety officials regularly rely on additional radio accessories to increase their communication and surveillance capabilities on the job. Popular Firstnet accessories include PTT headsets for dispatch duties, and surveillance kits to conduct covert operations. Moreover, Firstnet offers additional accessories for their Sonim devices, including the popular FirstNet Sonim XP8 earpiece.
Motorola WAVE users also benefit from added accessories. Across all industries, a heavy-duty belt clip and radio case is a big advantage. If you work on your feet and move around frequently throughout the day, you’ll want to keep your radio securely to your side and away from potential harm. The Motorola TLK 100 earpiece is especially useful, as it allows workers to receive important information and instructions without using their hands and compromising safety.
What System Best Fits My Need?
FirstNet and WAVE Oncloud are both innovative new services revolutionizing the communications industry on all fronts, both in the commercial sector and public safety. Which service fits your needs best depends on the type of organization you run, but either option is guaranteed to deliver fast secure communications.
For a government agency or company that engages in high-security government contracts, FirstNet may be the best (and required) option. If you run a large commercial business in an industry such as distribution, manufacturing, or security, WAVE OnCloud would be the best pick for a couple of reasons:
- The cloud computing capability and rapid communication speeds can greatly enhance communication efficiency between different groups or regions, even if your organization is globalized.
- WAVE Oncloud’s user-friendly application is widely available on almost every communication device, which will connect more employees than ever. This feature also increases the amount and types of information able to be transmitted to include text and group messaging.
As we’ve learned, FirstNet and WAVE On cloud are two different systems but serve a similar goal of strengthening and innovating the way we communicate within organizations to better accomplish our tasks. Overall, you’ll want to take in every aspect we’ve discussed both systems into your decision to use FirstNet or WAVE in your organization, but both options will significantly increase your communication productivity compared to traditional LMR.
About the Author
Taylor Thomas is a Marketing Manager at First Source Wireless. With her experience, she has helped public safety become more aware of push to talk networks. Taylor has attended many conferences including International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO), and International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE).