Every year I look forward to the coming of March with great anticipation. Part of it has to do with the fact that I live in the Upper Midwest. Not long ago, I painfully was reminded of this fact when Mother Nature dumped nearly two feet of snow on us. I’m still feeling the twinges in my lower back from the snow-clearing effort. Not that Mother Nature cares — she's planning to plop another half foot or so of the white stuff on us tonight.

So, as you might guess, I’m looking forward to spring, which brings the long-awaited and much-needed thaw. For me, spring begins on March 1 — I can't wait three more days, much less the three weeks prescribed by the calendar. I mark this auspicious day each year with a visit to Dairy Queen. Nothing says “spring” more than an ice-cream cone, even when temperatures still will be below freezing.

Before I do this, I will moderate a webinar during the afternoon that will examine the Project 25 standard, which finally seems to be delivering the promise that has been anticipated for more than two decades — specifically the ability to mix and match network and subscriber equipment from multiple vendors to deploy interoperable, best-in-class communications systems — while dramatically driving down costs for system operators. We have a great panel lined up for this discussion, and I hope that you’ll take an hour from your busy day to listen in.

The Project 25 standard also will be covered in depth a week later during IWCE 2011 in Las Vegas. Three workshops are scheduled:

  • Project 25 Foundations, Current Status, Next Steps (March 7 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.).
  • Project 25: A User’s Perspective on P25 Systems and Plans (March 7 from 1 to 5p.m.).
  • P25 Compliance Assessment Program Overview (March 8 from 1 to 5 p.m.).
  • In addition to these workshops, P25 will be covered in several shorter sessions that will be held March 9–11. Also, P25-compliant equipment will be on display throughout the trade-show floor.

IWCE is the place where our industry’s brightest and most-experienced minds convene each year to discuss the most pressing issues of the day, to contemplate future directions and to learn how to engineer and deploy effective voice and data communications systems.

Indeed, there are several pressing issues that will be addressed in depth this year at IWCE. Foremost among them is narrowbanding. The FCC’s deadline to convert all systems operating at 512 MHz and below to 12.5 MHz-wide channels is less than two years away. If narrowbanding is on your radar screen, then be sure to attend the session entitled, “Narrowbanding — The Details,” on March 9, and the general session entitled, “Narrowbanding by 2013: The Myth, the Realities ... the Countdown,” on March 10. The general session will be moderated by Alan Tilles, who authors our “Final Word” column every month.

Another pressing issue concerns the proposed changes to the intrinsically safe radio standard, which could have a chilling effect on land-mobile-radio (LMR) system operators in North America, which is the subject of March’s cover story written by Senior Writer Donny Jackson. How will these changes affect you? Attend the “lunch-and-learn” session on March 10 entitled, “Intrinsically Safe Radio: Meeting the New Standards” — moderated by Jackson — to find out.

The economic downturn is one pressing issue that has affected every company in our industry on some level. This is particularly true of LMR dealers, whose customers have been putting off system upgrades and, in many cases, have delayed the maintenance — often performed by dealers — that is critical to keeping systems operating efficiently. If you’re looking for insight on how to deal with this situation, then consider attending the workshop created just for LMR dealers entitled, “Surviving and Thriving in Today’s Economy,” which will be held on March 9.

There are numerous other sessions of note, including those that will explore the concept of so-called smart cities, the value of wireless technology in the emergency medical sector, and one major city’s use of satellite technology for emergency-response communications.

Hope to see you there! In the meantime, does anyone know if there's a DQ on the Las Vegas strip?

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.