LAS VEGAS — EF Johnson Technologies today is displaying Hybrid IP25 — a Project 25–compliant infrastructure system designed to let first responders roam between the vendor's trunked and conventional systems — at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) annual conference.

Hybrid IP25 leverages the fact that EF Johnson uses a native IP infrastructure for both its conventional and trunked solutions, so roaming between such systems is "almost seamless," handled automatically by the network and allows for very similar feature sets, regardless which system the user is on, said Ed Kelly, EF Johnson's vice president of marketing and business development.

"They can move between conventional and trunked and still get the calls with 99 of the features, just like they were on the trunked system, so the user doesn't know much of a difference," Kelly said. "The guy that buys the system notices a big difference, because to implement a hybrid system versus a full trunked system, you could save 25-30% in your solutions offering."

Indeed, while trunking typically is a better choice in densely populated areas where capacity constraints are key issues, conventional systems often are more cost-effective in more rural areas, Kelly said. With Hybrid IP25, entities can build systems that leverage the strengths of both technologies, he said.

"This gives them the chance, because it's so much more cost-effective, to actually get the coverage they need with the dollars they have to spend,” Kelly said. "I think this is a really good approach, especially with the economic climate.

"The challenge we have is to convince people of the advantages of hybrid when they’ve been buying either trunked or conventional for the last 30 years," he continued. "We're trying to move the market from thinking you have to buy one or the other, when really the best approach is best of breed."

In addition to enabling a smooth migration path from conventional to trunking within a band, Hybrid IP25 also allows greater interoperability with other entities when significant incidents require a response from multiple jurisdictions. However, Hybrid IP25’s full-featured roaming capabilities only work with EF Johnson conventional and trunked systems, Kelly said.

Prior to enabling roaming between conventional and trunked systems, EF Johnson had to develop technology that let users roam between sites within the conventional system, Kelly said. For those entities wanting that capability within conventional networks, EF Johnson is introducing the Freedom Tracker solution, which is part of Hybrid IP25 but also is available separately.

"It's basically mobility in a conventional system — the freedom to move about," Kelly said. "And we can track you, find you and make sure you don't miss a call."

Hybrid IP25 and Freedom Tracker are both designed to extend the useful life of conventional infrastructure, but Kelly emphasized that EF Johnson remains committed to trunking.

"We love trunked systems, don't get me wrong," he said. "We're not exiting the trunking business. We're trying to find the best-of-breed solutions you can mix and match to come up with a cost-effective solution for a customer."