M/A-COM was awarded a contract worth nearly $2 million by the Denver police department to deploy its NetworkFirst interoperability solution that will allow first responders on different radio systems to speak with each other.

With NetworkFirst, fiber, T-1s and microwave links form the IP backbone that allows users on 13 different radio systems — from UHF to VHF to 800 MHz, conventional and trunked — to speak to each other, said Chuck Shaughnessy, M/A-COM's vice president of system integration.

“With NetworkFirst, we're able to tie all these system together while letting everyone keep their existing radios,” Shaughnessy said. “The air interface is irrelevant.”

Dana Hansen, superintendent of communications for the Denver police department, said most interoperability attention is focused on large incidents requiring multiple public-safety agencies to respond, but she believes that interoperability also will be helpful on a more regular basis. In particular, NetworkFirst will allow state troopers — on a Motorola system — guarding the state capitol to talk directly with Denver police — on a M/A-COM system — instead of having to relay information through a dispatcher.

Although Hansen said she is “sold on it,” she acknowledged that NetworkFirst is not designed to be a cure-all for all existing radio problems.

“It won't work unless you're in your own coverage area,” Hansen said. “And, if you've got bad audio on your system now, this isn't going to make it better.”