The new year can be expected to be filled with activity in land mobile. With activity on a number of fronts, 2006 promises to be exciting, active and (let's hope) productive. Here's a short list of a few of the hot issues for the year:

Interoperability: The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has focused attention on interoperability between systems. Thus, the buzzwords for 2006 will include Safecom, P25 and interoperability over IP. It remains to be seen whether federal involvement will be helpful or hurtful. However, whatever solution is preferred, there will certainly be something that pleases only a portion of the community, and any solution will require significant funding and time to implement (with the exception of “back-office” interoperability).

Regardless of the answer, it is valueless without a significant amount of user training. The most advanced equipment conceivable will be ineffective if users are not trained so that procedures become second nature.

Backup systems: The other weakness that Katrina exposed is what happens to communications when the primary system goes down. Stories about officers picking up FRS radios in the drugstore demonstrate the need for backup systems and training in procedures to be used when systems cannot withstand events. Battery issues, backup power at repeater sites and the use of satellite-based systems will all be reviewed.

Rebanding: With the sputtering start of Wave 1 General Category licensees, the initial phase has been rocky for these licensees. 2006 brings the beginning of mediations, a process which I have significant reservations about. At the same time, we have the beginning of negotiations for large public-safety systems, with a number of significant issues in need of solutions.

New operating systems: Broadband over power lines, mesh networks, WiMAX, ultra wideband and software-defined radios will all likely come out of the testing stages and into prime time during 2006. Will BPL and UWB systems cause interference? Will mesh networks be stable and robust enough to meet their promise? Will WiMAX be upstaged by EV-DO and even xG technology? We've been arguing these issues for a while now, and it's time to see what happens in the marketplace.

4.9 GHz: Public-safety use of the 4.9 GHz band is ready for prime time in some areas and dormant in others. 2006 should see progress in planning and implementing systems, but the excitement that greeted the allocation may be dampened by developments in the 700 MHz band.

700 MHz: Congress is poised to implement a 2009 hard date for the cessation of terrestrial analog broadcast television. With a date certain, public-safety agencies will have the opportunity to plan their system implementation, knowing when service can begin. In those areas where the band is already clear, expect the test system in Washington, D.C,. to cease being the only 700 MHz public-safety system on the air.

The 2009 deadline may not be the only 700 MHz news of 2006. It is entirely possible that efforts before Congress to allocate a bigger portion of the band to public safety, particularly for broadband technologies such as implemented in Washington, may prove successful.

VoIP: By now, you're aware of the significant E911 issues resulting from the widespread implementation of voice-over-IP systems. Hopefully, during 2006 there will be solutions implemented to ensure that all VoIP users can be properly located during emergencies.

It almost seems that there is so much going on in the industry, it is difficult to keep abreast of everything. As a result, more and more reliance is placed on trade associations and user groups to keep members informed. Will there be sufficient funding for the associations and user groups to enable them to carry out their mission? Let's hope so.


Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio and Internet industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker and can be reached at atilles@srgpe.com.