Steve Elias, owner of BAYCOM in Green Bay, Wis., shared his ideas about RF and IT convergence in modern communications—as well the impact this trend has had on personnel and training within his company—during this conversation with IWCE’s Urgent Communications Editor Donny Jackson.

 

As communication equipment increasingly is being driven by software, are you seeing any new potential associated growth opportunities for your business?

“One of our big growth areas right now is that we have a half-million-dollars worth of Aeroflex service monitors in our fleet. One of the things that we’re doing is that we’re actively seeking our customers and selling them service agreements, because these radios need to be software-upgraded. We’re looking at a two-year service agreement, where we’ll upgrade their software once within that two-year timeframe.

“What we’re also seeing with digital is that digital has to be dialed right in, not like the old-school two-way radios that can be off a little bit and will function fine. What we’re also doing, as part of our service agreements, is that we’ll auto-test and auto-tune the radios after the upgrades. The Aeroflex monitors dial those radios right in, by channel and by mode. Basically, we upgrade the software, we upgrade the firmware, and the customer has a brand-new radio inside of an old box, realistically.”

 

When talking with customers, are you seeing greater influence from the IT department, as opposed to dealing primarily an RF director in the past?

“The sales cycle has totally changed in this business now. We have the IT departments involved from the first meeting , because the first things that we’re talking about are connectivity, as well as who is going to control the software platform on the radio. So, we need to get the IT departments involved right off the bat.

“What we are seeing is the IT department taking control of the communications system now, and they start talking about replacement cycles right away. We’re doing our best to educate our customers that the radios have changed dramatically, and they need to start looking at them more as a computer. The IT departments typically are used to that cycle.

“We’re still taking in radios on trade that are 15, 17 or 18 years old, and we take them out of [the customers’] hands working. But I think we’ve done a pretty good job of educating our customers that either they need to start looking at a replacement cycle—I think we use more of a 6-8 year range—but we’ll see if software will drive that migration quicker. In other words, will we be able to offer more on this radio platform where there will be a reason to upgrade sooner?”