M/A-COM demo bus hits Windy City

M/A-COM brought its demonstration bus to Chicago last month to showcase its technologies to various local government agencies, including the Chicago Transit Authority, the city's water department and the Chicago Public Schools.

The demo to the CTA — which purchased 2000 mobile radios from the company two years ago for its bus fleet — was significant, said John Rosati, M/A-COM's district sales manager, because transit personnel have as much need for interoperable communications as police and fire personnel. M/A-COM pitches its Internet protocol-based technologies as a means of achieving interoperability between agencies on disparate radio systems.

“There's no secret that transit agencies are a target these days,” Rosati said during the demonstration. “Also, transit people often are the very first responders to an incident. They're right there when it happens.”

The bus contains the equipment required to demonstrate M/A-COM's EDACS, OpenSky, P25IP and NetworkFirst technology platforms, as well as a compact cell site that can be mounted on a utility pole and serve as a repeater to fill coverage gaps.

The bus is unique among land mobile radio system developers, a circumstance that has helped M/A-COM competitively, according to William Clancy, M/A-COM's area sales director.

“No one else is doing this. The bus clearly has helped us, especially with agencies that are unfamiliar with our technologies and with our company,” he said. “They like the hands-on experience. Once they see it on the bus, they have a better grasp of what we offer and how they can apply it to their own specific situations or geographies.”

The genesis for the bus occurred in 1987, when M/A-COM introduced EDACS. “We traveled around the country with a system that was housed in the back of a Ryder truck,” Clancy said. “That eventually evolved into the bus.”

The bus is so well equipped, according to Clancy, that public-safety agencies regularly ask to purchase it for use as a mobile incident command center. Right now, M/A-COM is not interested but might make it available to a public-safety agency in about two years when the next generation is ready to roll. Over the past two years, the bus has covered about 50,000 miles, zigzagging across the country.

Las Vegas trials MeshNetworks system

The City of Las Vegas has deployed throughout its downtown a wireless broadband network developed by MeshNetworks. The Las Vegas Traffic Engineering Department will work with public-safety and city agencies to conduct the trial. Depending on the results, plans exist to expand the deployment to cover the metro area's 58 square miles. Cheetah Wireless Technologies executed the deployment. The MeshNetworks Enabled Architecture system is an ad hoc, or peer-to-peer, network that offers symmetric upload and download speeds ranging from 512 kb/s to 1.5 Mb/s, with always-on connectivity even when vehicles are traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour, according to the company.

APCO revises standard

The Association Of Public-Safety Communications Officials has released a revised version of its Project 33 standard that identifies minimum training requirements for public-safety communications officers. The standard was revised to take into account new technologies used in public-safety communications and changes in user requirements.

AT&T Wireless data service hits 10,000 subscribers AT&T Wireless said during last month's Association Of Public-Safety Communications Officials conference in Montreal that it currently has about 10,000 subscribers for its mobile data service introduced last February that is replacing the carrier's cellular digital packet data network. The carrier is adding about 3000 subscribers per month, said the company's Alan Yuan.

AT&T recently added another frequency overlay to fill coverage gaps, Yuan said. Work was completed nationwide last month. “It's now much more robust, and cell-to-cell connectivity is extremely consistent,” Yuan said, adding that the carrier is achieving consistent throughputs of 130 kb/s, with bursts to 200 kb/s.

IPMobileNet lands deal with state of Utah

IPMobileNet will furnish the state of Utah with 700 MHz mobile radios and base stations, according to Mike Netter, the company's sales and marketing manager. The order calls for 200 radios and a dozen base stations to be shipped. Deliveries started in August and will continue through the remainder of 2004, Netter said.

San Diego chooses TriTech mobile CAD solution

TriTech Software Systems announced that the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department would use its VisiNet Mobile communications application in as many as 200 field units. VisiNet Mobile is designed to seamlessly extend computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems to in-vehicle laptop computers. Integrated with the department's existing TriTech VisiCAD Command, department personnel can access location, resource and premise-history information while traveling en route to a scene.

Advanced mapping capabilities use satellite-image overlays and live GPS updates to give first responders a real-time picture of an incident scene while eliminating the need to rely on paper maps. The need for this enhanced solution was underscored as the department battled wildfires in Southern California, according to Susan Infantino, communications manager for San Diego Fire-Rescue. San Diego Fire-Rescue's VisiNet Mobile solution is being funded in part by an Urban Area Security Initiative grant issued by the Federal Office of Homeland Security.

PacketHop inks deal with Nortel

Mobile mesh network vendor PacketHop announced a co-marketing agreement with Nortel Networks, which will use PacketHop's software to enhance its new fixed mesh network offering.

Although the PacketHop and Nortel mesh-network architectures are different, they are interoperable and together offer an enticing package for customers, particularly those in the public-safety arena and homeland-security markets, according to PacketHop President and CEO Michael Howse.

“When fixed infrastructure is available like Nortel's mesh wireless solution, you have the advantage of high-speed backhaul to the Internet,” Howse said. “When fixed infrastructure is not available, you still get the survivability element of PacketHop's network.”

The co-marketing agreement means PacketHop's solution will be promoted by Nortel's “enormous sales infrastructure” as Nortel targets the $11 billion homeland-security market — a significant milestone for PacketHop, which is about a year and half old.

Separately, PacketHop also announced it has secured $10 million in a funding round that was aided by the existence of the deal with a high-profile company like Nortel. “Certainly, it made it easier to secure financing,” Howse said. He added that the Nortel deal is not exclusive and that PacketHop hopes to announce partnerships with other vendors in the future.

FCC: P2T providers must adhere to CALEA

The Federal Communications Commission has ruled that wireless push-to-talk service providers are subject to the requirements of the federal Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), regardless of the technologies used to provide those services. The law empowers law enforcement agencies to conduct electronic surveillance by tracking calling information.

The FCC also adopted rules, in a nod to homeland security, that for the first time require wireless and satellite service providers to report “significant” network outages. Previously, only wireline and cable telephony providers were required to do so. The increasing use of cell phones and pagers, as well as the nation's growing dependence on satellite communications as critical infrastructure, made the change necessary, the commission said.

General Dynamics lands $7 million military contract

General Dynamics announced it would provide engineering upgrades to 14 mobile command-and-control centers used by the First Marine Expeditionary Force under a $7 million contract awarded by the U.S. Marine Corps System Command in Quantico, Va.

The enhancements will bring the units to “full-mission capability,” accelerate the training package and create additional backup systems for combat operations, the company said. Currently, eight of the units are being used in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The mobile command-and-control centers are “the focal point of Marine decision-making” because they enable troops to digitally collect, display, process and disseminate information on the battlefield, General Dynamics said.

Texas troopers want EFJohnson's P25 radios

The Texas Department of Public Safety has awarded EFJohnson a $920,000 order for Project 25-compliant radios, the company said. The order will ship in third-quarter 2004. The Texas Highway Patrol, among other agencies, will use the radios.

Nextel inks deal with Tennessee Valley Authority

Nextel Communications announced it has been awarded a 10-year contract from the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's largest public utility, to provide in-building wireless coverage and outdoor site coverage to 15 TVA facilities across three states. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Nextel said it was chosen by the TVA to replace the utility's legacy wireless communications systems in response to the Federal Communications Commission's narrowband mandate for two-way LMR systems. When the project is complete, more than 3000 TVA handsets will be active on Nextel's network, the carrier said, adding that the network would provide interoperable communications not only across TVA's facilities, but also with police, fire and other government agencies in the three-state region.

SDR Forum to demo Java version of software spec

The Software Defined Radio (SDR) Forum plans to demonstrate a Java version of the Software Communications Architecture (SCA) — a set of specifications that govern the interaction of hardware and software components in an SDR and control the radio's functions — at its technical conference to be held in Phoenix Nov. 15-17.

The SCA was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense via its Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) program to ensure that SDRs manufactured by different companies would be able to communicate with each other. The JTRS program was created to help the military migrate from its current radio systems to SDRs. Java versions of SDRs are lighter and more portable because the Java language requires less machine resources than does the “more cumbersome” Common Object Request Broker Architecture language currently being considered by the military, said Allan Margulies, SDR Forum CEO.

In other news, the SDR Forum's public-safety special interest group (SIG) is developing a request for information seeking specific ideas regarding how software-defined radio technology can meet public-safety requirements. Of specific interest are the requirements of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as Project MESA, which is working to develop international specifications for advanced mobile broadband communications for public safety. The SDR Forum hopes to release a report based on the feedback “sometime in early 2005.”

Pronto, Tropos partner on metro-wide Wi-Fi solutions

Pronto Networks and Tropos Networks announced that they would work jointly to develop metro-scale Wi-Fi hot zone deployments. The end-to-end solutions envisioned by the companies would consist of Pronto's carrier-grade operations support systems developed for wireless broadband networks and the company's hot zone gateway, in addition to Tropos' 5110 Wi-Fi cells and a control device designed specifically for large Wi-Fi networks. The two companies recently collaborated on metro-wide hot spot deployments in Chaska, Minn., and Cerritos, Calif.

In other news, Tropos announced that the City of Corpus Christi, Texas, would deploy its Wi-Fi network for use by the city's water and gas utilities, as well as public works and public-safety agencies. The first phase of the deployment will provide coverage over 18.5 square miles. Coverage will extend to the city's entire 147 square miles when the project is completed in March 2005.

Report: P2T market to reach $10 billion by 2008

A research report recently issued by Dublin, Ireland-based Research and Markets forecasted that worldwide push-to-talk cellular revenues would reach $10.1 billion by 2008, a dramatic increase over the $84 million posted in 2003. The report also indicates that P2T cellular subscribers would increase to 340 million during the same period, compared with 2.3 million in 2003.