Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems, formerly known as M/A-COM, yesterday announced the completion of a 700/800 MHz OpenSky radio network for public-safety and utility personnel in Newton County, Ga.

Costing less than $5 million, the seven-site system is being used by the public-safety departments for Newton County, the city of Covington and the city of Porterdale. Eventually, the system also will be used by county and city utility organizations.

“In the time it has been on-line we’ve been very pleased with the system’s performance and it is operating even better than we anticipated,” Newton County Sheriff Joe Nichols said in a statement.

Previously, the city organizations operated on a Motorola SmartNet system, and the county operated on a VHF network, said James Potter, area sales manager for Tyco Electronics Wireless Systems.

“You have a small county that was faced with an aging SmartNet system and made, to me, a wise decision to go out for a competitive bid to see what was out there,” Potter said during an interview with Urgent Communications.

One aspect of the OpenSky solution that was attractive to Newton County is the system’s capacity, which is greater than a P25 system because OpenSky features a four-slot TDMA architecture that includes a control channel embedded in the RF channel, Potter said.

“It’s a 10-channel system,” he said. “So, instead of just getting nine talk paths [with a P25 system], they received 40 talk paths with the OpenSky design.”

Other benefits of the Tyco Electronics system is integration of voice and data on the same channel and lower cost—even with additional costs associated with a change in site design, the project was about $500,000 less than the bid of the nearest competitor, Potter said.

OpenSky is a proprietary over-the-air protocol, but the Newton County system enhances interoperability with other systems, because the foundation of the system is Tyco Electronics’ NetworkFirst product, which leverages IP to allow communication between disparate frequencies and protocols, Potter said.

“Newton County has the NetworkFirst feature, so they can talk to every single surrounding county agency—and there’s conventional UHF, VHF, SmartNet as well as our neighboring EDACS system,” Potter said. “They can talk to all those different agencies with their OpenSky system.”