Narrowband mandate spurs $18 million Nevada radio system
As part of a congressional mandate to reduce the bandwidth of the federal wireless radio channels, the National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Operations Office (NNSA/NV) spent $18 million to replace and modernize its two-way radio and wireless data systems.
The wireless data portion includes a new messaging computer, 14 transmitter and receiver sites, and antenna systems in communication with a satellite downlink. The resulting network provides not only local coverage but nationwide, state-of-the-art, advanced messaging services.
The two-way radio network replacement included engineering, design, installation and site support for 10 mountaintop antenna sites. The system supports a large number of users at the Nevada Test Site and in the metropolitan Las Vegas area. The system was dedicated in a ceremony earlier this month.
“We are pleased to partner with Motorola and WebLink Wireless in this first-of-a-kind communication system in the state of Nevada, that has resulted in mutual benefits for Nellis Air Force Base and Nevada Highway Patrol,” said Kathleen Carlson, manager, NNSA/NV. “Additionally, the primary advantages of the system are faster access, better channel efficiency, user privacy and flexible expansion.”
Jim Tucker, Motorola Communications and Electronics vice president and area manager for the U.S. Federal Government Markets Division, added: “When work first began on this new digital communications system, the challenge simply was to design a wireless communications system that would provide the features, capabilities, security and technological flexibility that the Nevada Test Site might require for years to come. No one at that time knew how the Sept. 11 tragedy would alter the importance of mission-critical and interoperable communications. Yet, what we have learned is that this robust system provides the Department of Energy the platform it needs to meet the unknown challenges of the future. Motorola is extremely pleased to have been part of the team effort that has made this system a reality.”
WebLink Wireless, Dallas, was selected to upgrade the NNSA/NV’s one-way paging system to two-way wireless data communications. WebLink’s network, based on the ReFlex 25 protocol, is the largest of its kind, thus offering greater flexibility to employees as they travel throughout the DOE Test Site, Nevada and the rest of the United States. The network’s multiple simulcast transmission offers reliability during times of disaster and crisis. Furthermore, the network offers superior signal penetration that allows Security Administration employees to receive messages deep inside buildings and below ground level. WebLink’s network flexibility also benefits the NNSA/NV as it supports customized applications such as instant notification or emergency dispatch software that the organization may want to develop.
“WebLink Wireless is pleased to work with the NNSA/NV to update their communication system and to offer messaging devices that will make their communications more efficient,” said Rick Nelson, senior vice president of business sales. “The success of this project is a perfect example of how other governmental agencies and states can upgrade their communications networks and become more effective with their wireless strategies.”
WebLink operates the largest ReFlex network in the United States. The multicast network covers 90% of the U.S. population and, through roaming agreements, extends throughout most of North America.
On May 23, 2001, WebLink filed in federal court for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. On April 15, 2002, the company agreed with its secured lenders on a reorganization plan. Shareholders are expected to recover nothing, and the company’s stock current trades at a fraction of a cent per share.
Fortunately, construction of WebLink’s wireless data network is substantially complete, reducing the capital expenditures required to support the network. Plus the company has reduced operating expenditures through the restructuring in 2001. As a result, WebLink’s curent cash requirements are much lower than requirements of the last several years.
As of March 31, the company had $14.5 million in cash and cash equivalents. In a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, WebLink stated its belief that its cash on hand and funds from operations will meet operating and capital expenditure requirements for 2002. Until a plan of reorganization is approved, the company’s long-term liquidity and adequacy of its capital resources cannot be determined.
WebLink has described its situation from the perspective of wireless data units and one-way paging:
The company had 477,112 wireless data units in service as of March 31, 2001, compared to 524,748 as of March 31, 2002. WebLink received its first shipments of two-way wireless data devices in February 2000. In September 2000, the it began receiving shipments of the Motorola Talkabout T900, which contributed to WebLink’s wireless data unit growth. In July 2000, the company added its first units in telemetry. As of March 31, 2002, the WebLink had 5,636 telemetry units in service included in total wireless data units in service.
Net wireless data unit additions for the three months ended March 31, 2001 and 2002 were 123,332 and 16,659, respectively. The decrease in the number of unit adds from March 31, 2001 to March 31, 2002 was caused primarily by general market conditions for wireless data devices and WebLink’s bankruptcy proceedings. In the quarters ended March 31, 2001 and 2002, the average monthly disconnection rate for wireless data units was 2.6% and 2.4%, respectively.
Units in service from domestic one-way paging operations were 1,613,704 and 875,605 as of March 31, 2001 and 2002, respectively. WebLink’s one-way operations experienced a net decrease of 738,099 units in service from March 31, 2001, to March 31, 2002, as the general market for traditional paging declined. Unit decreases for the three months ended March 31, 2001 and 2002, were 250,856 and 152,625, respectively.
This trend has continued since 1998. In the quarters ended March 31, 2001 and 2002, the one-way paging unit’s average monthly disconnection rate was 5.8% and 5.9%, respectively. WebLink’s management believes there is a declining market for traditional one-way paging services, and some of the demand appears to be shifting to the higher quality and greater benefits of wireless data services. The significant decline in traditional paging units is expected to continue indefinitely.