Swissphone recently announced a partnership with Iowa-based RACOM, which will be the first certified U.S. dealer to offer Swissphone’s DiCal Digital Paging Solution that features voice and text paging, as well as a system architecture that is unique to paging in the United States.

Swissphone is popular in Europe—the company has built 160 paging systems in Germany that support more than 1 million pagers—and hopes to build on that success in the United States, particularly targeting fire and EMS departments that rely on pagers to notify personnel of emergencies, according to Marco Stadler, Swissphone’s managing director of North America and chief marketing officer.

“We are the market leader by far in Europe, so it’s not a new system,” Stadler said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “It’s just new to the U.S.”

RACOM has sold Swissphone pagers for year, but the dealer quickly was intrigued when Swissphone officials said they wanted to bring the company’s digital-paging network solution to the U.S., particularly when all other aspects of communications are moving from analog to digital, according to Mike Miller, president and CEO of RACOM Critical Communications.

“The way we do [paging in the U.S.], of course, is we stick a paging transmitter up 300 feet or more, and we scream as loud as we can—and we use as few of those sites as we need to get the coverage that we want,” Miller said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “In Europe, the architecture is completely different. There are more base stations mounted lower to the ground—more like a cellular telephone company would build its infrastructure—and each one of those base stations is much less expensive than what we typically pay for in the U.S.

“Then, those base stations talk to each other and are simulcast. So, it’s almost like a mesh network, with all of these base stations talking to one another and then simulcasting out over the coverage area.”

The timing is ideal to introduce a new paging system into the marketplace, Miller said.

“Most places just narrowbanded their VHF fire paging base station, and their coverage just fell off of a cliff,” he said. “So, we’ve got lots of fire public safety with completely inadequate fire-paging coverage, and they’re all looking for a different solution. They want at least the coverage they had before narrowbanding, and not a lot of them were satisfied with that to begin with.

“Customer have demanded that we start looking for other solutions, and Swissphone came to us with a solution that just made a lot of sense. First, it was digital. Second, it was simulcast.”

After recently deploying a traditional paging system in an Iowa county that cost more than $300,000, RACOM had its engineers model a Swissphone paging system to cover the same area, Miller said.

“Our estimates were that it would take 12 or 13 transmitters—almost double [the seven transmitters used in the traditional architecture], because you are lower power and lower down—but the price would be about the same or maybe even 5% less,” Miller said. “So we felt that financially it makes sense, operationally it makes sense, and we’re going to get some customer demand from it.”

With the Swissphone DiCal solution, connectivity between base stations is done solely via radio link, removing the costs and complications associated with backhaul, Stadler said. In fact, the same UHF or VHF frequency that supports signaling to the end user also can support monitoring, he said.

“You don’t need multiple frequencies and a lot of licenses,” Stadler said. “You just need one frequency—you can do the alerting and the monitoring over this frequency, and everything is done over the air.”