Public-safety communications vendor Tyco Electronics M/A-COM has certified that the New York Statewide Wireless Network (SWN) is ready for operational testing in the initial project area, meaning testing that will decide the fate of the $2 billion contract will be conducted this month, according to the state.

The New York State Office for Technology (OFT) made the announcement today that M/A-COM has declared the network ready for operational testing in Erie County and Chautauqua County, citing on-road coverage at least 98.38% in both counties with superior voice quality, OFT spokesman Karl Felsen said during an interview with MRT.

“And that was at 3.4 DAQ voice quality,” Felsen said. “It really means that it’s pretty much like talking on a telephone … We’re setting some pretty high standards here.”

At a “good” voice quality rating of 3.0 DAQ, on-road coverage exceeds 99% in both counties, Felsen said, noting that the M/A-COM coverage figures are “pretty remarkable.”

Under the terms of the state’s contract with M/A-COM, the network is supposed to provide 97% on-road coverage and 95% coverage over the entire geography of the state.

With M/A-COM’s certification, OFT engineers have begun testing the network in Erie and Chautauqua counties, which will be followed by user testing that is scheduled to conclude by the end of the month. A preliminary user test of the uncompleted system last fall resulted several statements of dissatisfaction by public-safety officials in Erie County.

The New York system has been the subject of controversy for several years, with some critics saying that the OFT should not be the sole judge of whether the M/A-COM-built network meets the state’s requirements. With this in mind, the state is expected to name an independent verification and validation company in the next two weeks, Felsen said. This firm will be given the task of overseeing this month’s user test and independently determining whether M/A-COM has met the terms of its contract with the state.

“No system has ever been tested in such granularity (more than 110,000 test points in two rounds of testing in Erie and Chautauqua counties),” OFT deputy CI0 and interim project director Michael Mittleman said in a prepared statement. “We are insisting on reiteration and independent verification of testing to erase any doubt as to exactly what the State will be getting if it accepts the system for full deployment.”

For M/A-COM and state, the stakes associated with this month’s user test are high. If the test is deemed a success, the state will begin paying the company on its $2 billion contract, subject to a full-foliage test in June. If the network does not pass the test, the state has the right to end the contract without paying any money to M/A-COM, even though the company already has invested tens of millions of dollars in the buildout and has a $100 million performance bond.