The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate recently completed a 30-day multiband-radio pilot at the Phoenix International Raceway’s NASCAR events. During the pilot, 15 participating law-enforcement and emergency-management partners across the state tested the Harris Unity XG-100 multiband radio — the second radio to be tested by the S&T that incorporates multiband technology into daily operations.

“We were certainly pleased with the feedback from the pilot users,” said Dennis Martinez, Harris’ CTO of RF solutions. “They very much liked the idea that they could operate the radio in their native system or they could operate on a foreign system.”

A multiband radio lets police officers, firefighters and other emergency-response and -management personnel use a single radio to communicate with agencies and jurisdictions operating on different radio bands, said Tom Chirhart, program manager at the S&T directorate. During the pilot, Harris’ multiband radio supported the Arizona Department of Emergency Management and the city of Phoenix during the NASCAR events, when race-day crowds nearly doubled the population of the region and interagency cooperation was required, Chirhart said.

“A pit-crew headset was adapted to the Harris radio, and it performed well,” Chirhart said.

Martinez said the radio exercises were conducted so agencies would have to operate in their native system frequency band but would have interoperable scenarios in which they would converge on a particular frequency band.

“In many cases, that was in a different frequency band than their native systems’ [frequency],” he said. “They thought that was a useful tool, because it allowed them to use their radio in their native working environment and then switch to an interoperable mode when they needed to operate on a foreign system.”

The testing continues, with other S&T demonstrations and pilots focused on evaluating multiband radios' functionality across multiple systems — analog, conventional, digital and Project 25 — and by multiple public-safety agencies in the southwestern U.S., including local, tribal, state and federal agencies, Chirhart said.

“The [Phoenix] test is one of many ongoing multiband tests that are being held throughout the region,” he said.

Participants in the current pilot included the Air National Guard; Arizona Division of Emergency Management; Arizona National Guard; Arizona Public Safety Interoperable Communications Office; Arizona State Forestry; Arizona Wing of the Civil Air Patrol; Army National Guard; Cochise County Sheriff; Gila County Emergency Management; Maricopa County Division of Emergency Management; Maricopa County Emergency Communications Group; Maricopa County Sheriffs; Mohave County Emergency Management; NASCAR/Phoenix International Raceway and the Phoenix Fire Department.

To learn more about the development of multiband radios, read a Q&A with Chirhart and Martinez.