City picks M/A-Com for compatibility
When fighting a major blaze, the last thing an emergency response agency wants to deal with is “putting out fires” in their communications networks. To keep up with growing populations and heightened anxieties caused by events such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School, agencies across the country are reevaluating their communications networks.
Aurora, CO, for example, is in final contract negotiations with M/A-Com for a new radio communications network that will migrate and evolve with the growing needs of the city. The city, which currently uses a Motorola system, is switching to a M/A-Com enhanced digital access communications system (EDACS).
The biggest reason for the system switch is the fact that adjacent Denver works on the M/A-Com system, said Aurora Fire Communications Captain Kent D. Patton. Denver has used the system since 1989.
Once the Aurora EDACS system comes online, M/A-Com systems will cover 65% of the population in the state of Colorado, said David Cerqua, M/A-Com’s area sales director. Other local areas currently working on the EDACS system include the Denver Water Board; metropolitan-area cities of Westminster, Arvada and Lakewood; West Metro Fire Protection District, Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site; Continental Airlines and Denver International Airport (DIA).
“Denver being on the system was a driver because we like to talk with them on a daily basis,” Patton said. “M/A-Com offered a unique package with the towers we were looking for, it had a nice service package, and we had heard good things about it from Denver. The Star Gate switch was also intriguing, and the ability to talk is important.”
M/A-Com’s Star Gate switch will work ultimately to tie all EDACS systems in the region together, providing interoperability for all area agencies. “The Star Gate controller hooks multiple integrated multisite controllers together,” Cerqua said. “It will allow the people in Aurora to connect the systems that are currently in place in Denver, Westminster, Arvada, Lakewood and DIA … which would create a virtually seamless Denver metropolitan area system.”
Coverage was Aurora’s first concern when choosing a new communications system. The city’s RFP called for 95% portable, on-the-street coverage. M/A-Com is meeting this requirement with three new tower sites. Another of Aurora’s major requirements was in-building penetration. The EDACS system was able to penetrate deep into Aurora’s buildings, Patton said.
“Building penetration is good through masonry walls and steel structures,” he said. “We were looking at firefighter and police safety. We know they aren’t safe if they can’t communicate.”
Aurora’s second concern was price. Originally, the city only wanted a public safety system. However, M/A-Com was able to provide a system that would also include public works. “With EDACS, they don’t have to try to maintain two infrastructures,” Cerqua said.
“On the older infrastructure, some of the parts are becoming obsolete, so (Aurora) would have had to replace it in a few years anyway. We were able to bring the entire city under one system, which is going to be very cost-effective for them in the long run,” Cerqua said.
The EDACS system is designed to provide both forward and backward compatibility, and is designed for future growth upgrade ability and expansion.
Aurora’s new system is slated for implementation by October 2003. “The emphasis is on better communications for fire and public safety,” Patton said. “And the city has taken a very responsive role in that.”