LAS VEGAS--Critical communications provider M/A-COM unveiled an IP-based network solution designed to let public-safety entities leverage existing communications systems -- even disparate technologies operating at different frequencies -- while providing a clear migration path to future feature-rich technologies.

Known as VIDA (Voice, Interoperability, Data and Access), the new offering integrates voice and high-speed data capability over an IP network that provides unprecedented flexibility, according to John Vaughan, M/A-COM's vice president and general manager.

By converting all voice to packets before transmitting over the IP backbone, M/A-COM's solution enables seamless interoperability between voice networks as different as an older VHF analog system and a state-of-the-art 800 MHz digital solution, Vaughan said.

"Once the VIDA system has your packets, you can talk to anyone on any network, regardless of type, network or manufacturer," he said.

In addition to the public safety-grade voice-over-IP that is the trademark of M/A-COM's OpenSky and P25IP solutions, VIDA includes enhancements to the data capabilities offered in the company's solutions. Using existing voice base stations, the solution can upgrade data rates from 19.2 Kb/s to 32 Kb/s, Vaughan said.

Further upgrades are available for high speed (up to 100 Kb/s), wideband (100 to 400 Kb/s) and broadband (greater than 1 Mb/s), Vaughan said. However, the ability to realize these speeds is based on proximity to a cell site -- data rates decrease as users travel further away from a tower, creating the need to pay for more network nodes to achieve consistent data speeds throughout the network, he said.

Using IP technology lets public-safety entities enjoy the economic benefits of Moore's Law when replacing or upgrading fundamental network components such as routers and servers, Vaughan said. It also allows network designers to use the best system for a given area -- whether that decision is based on economics or the geographical environment -- while investing in an IP infrastructure that should maintain its value in the next generation of communications, he said.

"In the past, [a given radio solution] was one size fits all, whether you were in an urban or rural environment," Vaughan said. "If you have a VIDA network, you can mix and match. ... It is fundamentally a more spectrally efficient solution, because you can use all of your frequencies."