Raytheon recently announced the ACU-5000, the latest version of the company’s interoperability gateway portfolio designed to allow users on disparate networks to communicate.

“If, today we could design fresh the ACU-1000 and ACU-2000, it would be the ACU-5000,” said Mike Cox, Raytheon’s chief engineer for the ACU-5000.

The ACU-1000 has been one of the most popular interoperability tools in the public-safety marketplace, but its interfaces are somewhat limited, based on the technology available in the mid-1990s, when the ACU-1000 was designed, Cox said.

“When IP came along, we managed to make it IP-capable, but we were never able to really take advantage of all of the advances in new technology,” Cox said. “With the ACU-5000, we basically started over and did that.”

This has allowed the ACU-5000 to be offered in a smaller form factor than previous ACU products, although a traditional rack-mounted version is being developed to meet the desire of many customers. Despite its smaller size, the new technology in the ACU-5000 has additional capabilities that gives Raytheon “all the headroom in the world left to be adding new things to it,” Cox said.

Among those features will be LTE, which will be enabled via software configuration, not through the inclusion of extra modules that must be carried around, Cox said.

“The ACU-5000 itself doesn’t have any inherent LTE connection. It will be the entree of an interface for the stuff we’re developing that will have LTE capability,” Cox said. “So, if someone has an LTE system and they have a smartphone that has the app we develop on it, they could use that app and a new system to connect to an ACU-5000 radio. It kind of gives them a radio-in-their-pocket, but that’s still being developed.”

Although the ACU-5000 is commercially available now, the LTE configuration capability is expected to be available at the end of this year or early next year, Cox said.