Daniels Electronics and Catalyst Communications Technologies again have collaborated on a dispatch system, this time for an Alaskan agency that was challenged by its vast coverage area and the region’s difficult topography. The companies declined to identify the agency.

The system leverages Daniels’ MT-4 Project 25 radio system and Catalyst’s IP-based dispatch system, the latter of which the public-safety agency first started using a decade ago as a backup to its primary dispatch system. Three mountaintop digital base stations are accessed by three full-featured consoles, as well as by a dozen clients scattered throughout the region.

Satellite data links that significantly extend the system’s reach was a key differentiator for this agency, because its jurisdiction covers 5.4 million square acres — roughly the size of the state of New Hampshire — according to Gerry Wight, Daniels’ vice president of sales and marketing.

“We have a lot of customers out in remote areas … where they don’t have telephone poles, they don’t have copper, they don’t have fiber and they don’t have coax cable,” Wight said. “So they have to do everything over radio. Now, even if they’re so remote that their only hop is over satellite, they still can link to disparate points in a digital environment.”

For example, a single dispatcher using this system can track a plane as it travels across hundreds of miles and over as many as 13 mountaintop repeaters, a capability that enhances the safety of the agency’s personnel, said Robin Grier, Catalyst’s president.

“Because they cover such a large area and because it is so difficult to move around in that rugged terrain, they often have planes flying over this [vast] territory,” Grier said. “Before this system was installed, they would have to hand off who was handling that plane, which created gaps in coverage. Now, a single dispatcher can follow a plane across the entire territory, and know where they are — and stay in communication with them — at all times.”

Another advantage of this system is that it didn’t require a forklift migration, according to Grier.

“They added a universal interface card to their existing Daniels base stations, and for the Catalyst equipment, it was a software upgrade,” he said. “It’s great to not have to throw away what you bought before.”

There are other financial considerations, according to Wight.

“It certainly makes the P25 grant dollars go a lot further if you can do something for a fractional upgrade price, as opposed to a complete replacement,” he said.

In addition, because the system is IP-based, it enables load-sharing between the agency’s dispatch centers.

“As you might imagine, as the winter encroaches, there is less and less activity in the wilds of Alaska,” Grier said. “So, it doesn’t make sense to fully staff every dispatch center 24 hours a day. You can be a lot more efficient by scaling back at five in the afternoon and on weekends, and letting one dispatch center cover the whole area, instead of three, or five, or some other number.”