M/A-Com emphasizes power of IP in seven announcements at APCO
NetworkFirst IP interoperability solution
IP-based conventional P25 mobile radio system
Packet technology for all product lines
OpenSky network software for 4-slot TDMA
700 MHz base station for public safety applications
EDACS system enhancements
IP-based gateway link for EDACS and OpenSky networks
At the APCO national conference in Nashville, Tenn., M/A-Com made seven announcements about product introductions, upgrades and demonstrations.
NetworkFirst IP interoperability solution
M/A-Com, Lowell, Mass., introduced its NetworkFirst Internet protocol network-based product that connects existing emergency communications systems for interoperability without requiring new radios or radio sites. The company plans a roadshow to demonstrate its IP networking product around the country.
NetworkFirst is designed to make multi-agency interoperability, regardless of radio type, frequency or mode, faster and easier to achieve. Its scalability allows communications interoperability at local, regional, state and national levels. Public safety agencies gain interoperability via a network solution at a fraction of the cost, and in a fraction of the time, compared with radio-based approaches.
“Interoperability – the ability for different agencies to communicate across multiple systems using different radio equipment – is one of the foremost issues in public safety communications today, especially in the post 9-11 world,” said John Vaughan, Ph.D., vice president of M/A-Com. “NetworkFirst offers a cost-effective, easy-to-deploy solution that meets that need. Because it is a network solution to a radio problem, organizations can achieve true interoperability without purchasing new radios, much less an entire system. This allows them to save money and use equipment with which they are already familiar.”
NetworkFirst enables interoperability across all frequencies and supports all radio and system level voice types – analog, digital, conventional and trunked. To achieve interoperability, NetworkFirst links together disparate radio system types that use different frequency bands by converting audio signals into digital packets of data that can then be easily transported over a wide area IP packet-switched network.
NetworkFirst uses an analog audio gateway to convert audio to IP voice packets,and an IP-based, software-only voice switch and network administrator called a regional operating center to connect multiple radio systems in a seamless communications web. The gateway is available in two chassis models supporting as many as 12 legacy radio channels, trunked talk groups or console positions. A single ROC enables as many as 64,000 NetworkFirst talk groups. Optional components of NetworkFirst include consoles for centralized dispatch, PSTN interfaces for telephone interconnects and network-ready base stations.
This month, M/A-Com is conducting a nationwide roadshow to demonstrate its product’s interoperability to state, county and local municipalities and public safety agencies. A mobile demonstration unit built for the tour will travel to numerous cities across the country to educate state and local officials about the need for interoperability and to demonstrate the effectiveness of a network-based solution. At each location, M/A-Com will connect to existing communications networks to demonstrate how NetworkFirst allows disparate equipment and systems to communicate.
In addition, M/A-Com has a NetworkFirst demonstration facility located in Harrisburg, Penn., to show potential customers exactly how the product would function in an actual setting.
IP-based conventional P25 mobile radio system
M/A-Com’s P25IP (P25 to the power of IP) product line enables public safety organizations with conventional frequencies to tap advanced IP technology.
With P25IP products and networks. conventional mobile radio communications system for users requiring Project 25 can specify P25 systems and have the benefit of supplier competition and inter-agency interoperability. P25IP meets these objectives using an advanced IP framework that allows public safety organizations to take advantage of a cost-effective implementation and advanced voice and data communications.
“From a user perspective, the purpose of P25 has always been to provide organizations with advanced digital communication features like encrypted voice and data, while ensuring interoperability among those agencies,” said Paul May, a product manager with M/A-Com. “P25IP takes that goal to a new level by not only granting users a P25 compliant system, but delivering the system in an IP environment. With IP, users gain the flexibility and scalability that will permit them to add features and functionality never before available to them.”
P25IP conventional systems are backward-Compatible, allowing for gradual customer migrations from traditional analog to IP systems. Because the system is an end-to-end IP solution, system administrators would benefit from the IP’s inherent scalability, affordability and survivability. The system enables users to increase capacity, connection speeds and the number of system users, compared with traditional radio systems. The Internet-protocol based infrastructure allows users to expand the system to include services such as network management functionality.
The system also supports a high level of interoperability to legacy systems through NetworkFirst. Users can take advantage of P25 radio interoperability and use NetworkFirst for system level interoperability with non-P25 systems.
The first available product in the P25IP product line is the VHF P25 Mastr III repeater, which is built upon the field-proven Mastr III that has been part of M/A-Com’s line for 10 years.
M/A-Com also introduced the P7100IP, its first VHF P25-Compliant portable radio. The lightweight unit has a software-defined radio platform capable of multimode operation including P25 conventional unencrypted and encrypted voice transmissions, analog conventional, EDACS and ProVoice operation. The P7100IP also provides data connectivity and status/messaging capability.
M/A-Com has extended its mobile radio product line with the introduction of its first P25 mobile radio, the VHF M7100IP. The 110 W transceiver supports the same P25, analog, and EDACS/ProVoice trunked modes as the portable, and provides mobile features such as dual transceiver, dual control and vehicular repeater operation.
Packet technology for all product lines
Calling packet technology the future of voice and data critical communications, M/A-Com has integrated packet technology for voice and data into all of its product lines. The company believes that the use of packet technology provides the most flexibility and efficiency for wireless communications and the best functionality; thus, M/A-Com’s EDACS, OpenSky, P25IP and NetworkFirst systems support packet technology to offer customers the latest capabilities to public safety users.
“We see packet technology as the future of critical communications because of its efficiency, reliability and the increased functionality it brings to public safety systems,” said John Vaughan, vice president, wireless systems, M/A-Com. “By integrating packet technology into our product lines, we are offering our customers the most up-to-date technology, as well as a way to migrate their systems to the next-generation of critical communications. Upgradeability and technology refreshment continue to be a key part of our systems and equipment. Packet switching enables the best management of voice and data information so that users can get the most functionality out of their equipment.”
Originally developed for routing and delivering Internet data, today packet switching is ubiquitous in public communications networks. Based on non-proprietary protocols, it allows voice to be compressed and transmitted as data packets using routers, servers and gateways. M/A-Com expects that this technology, which revolutionized commercial telecommunications, would similarly effect critical communications in public safety, which hinges on the high-performance and reliability that packet switching offers.
Traditional voice networks (telephony or land mobile radio) are circuit switched. In circuit switching, users share an exclusive connection (a circuit or radio channel) for the duration of the conversation. With circuit switched technology, one call ties up the whole dedicated circuit.
In packet switching, information is divided into packets, discrete units of data with address labels that direct them to their final destinations (the end user devices). Multiple users share access to a circuit or radio channel by taking turns placing their packets onto the channel. This is the same technology used by cell phones, PDAs and many other mobile devices to access information from the Internet. In the case of public safety communications, every end-user device on the network has an IP address (so that packets will know where to travel), and calls are routed to their destinations – groups, individuals or data terminals – by a combination of network hardware and software.
M/A-Com listed the following benefits of packet switching:
– One advantage of packet switching is that the network can be configured with multiple paths to each node. If one path fails, the network can automatically route packets around the failed section. This capability translates into reliable communications for public safety professionals.
– By compressing voice data and routing it via multiple paths, packet switching enables the most efficient use of voice traffic so that one channel is not consumed by a circuit connection. Several people can talk simultaneously without tying up the channel.
- Voice-over-IP (VoIP) – Voice and Data
– Using packets, voice and data information can be routed together on the same network. With IP, both data and voice packets use the same protocol and packet switching for combination on the same channel.
– Because voice and data are carried using the same protocol, both can be transmitted together allowing not only audio conversation but also exchange of data such as building floor plans or suspect information. As a result, public safety professionals have access to more information and have a better ability to do their jobs.
The following M/A-Com products and product families support packet switching and IP technology:
Vehicular tactical network (V-TAC)
OpenSky network software enables 4-slot TDMA
With an upgrade of its software, M/A-Com has increased the voice call capacity of its OpenSky digital radio network with the addition of 4-slot TDMA. The new software capabilities permit multiple radio users to access a single radio-frequency (RF) channel without mutual interference, by allocating four unique time slots to each user within each channel. The new technology expands upon the benefits of TDMA technology and enables users to increase voice call capacity and to become more channel-efficient. Because it is a software upgrade, there is no need to purchase new hardware.
“By increasing capacity to four unique time slots, we are expanding OpenSky’s voice call capacity by more than four times that of a typical mobile radio system,” said Mike Axford, a software engineering manager with M/A-Com. “In addition, the 4-slot technology supports dynamic bandwidth allocation to meet users’ data transmission needs. Considering that all of these enhancements may be made without having to purchase any hardware, we believe that this technology will come as a tremendous benefit to OpenSky users.”
M/A-Com’s 4-slot TDMA technology supports all OpenSky deployments. The OpenSky IP-based wireless private network is capable of integration with all types of existing non-proprietary systems. OpenSky supports both radio and voice interoperability with legacy systems, including analog, digital, conventional and trunked systems through its NetworkFirst connections. This also provides migration from legacy networks to an expanded, more fully capable solution.
M/A-Com said that TDMA offers a number of other advantages over standard technologies. TDMA can be easily adapted to the transmission of data as well as voice communication. TDMA enables operators to offer personal communication-like services as well as bandwidth-intensive applications.
The company’s new 4-slot TDMA software technology will be available to users on a per channel basis.
700 MHz base station for public safety applications
M/A-Com introduced a base station that supports wide area coverage to users of the OpenSky network and that can manage radio communications between a fixed radio site and mobile and portable radios in the 700 MHz frequency band allocated to public safety. The new base station enhances call capabilities when connecting to the OpenSky network, including better coverage, increased call capacity and interoperability with other users of 700 MHz systems.
“The new 700 MHz base station, together with upcoming dual-band radios, permits users to employ the new 700 MHz spectrum being made available for public safety and commercial users,” said Max Rivkin, a product line manager with M/A-Com. “The new base station combined with the OpenSky network make up the architecture for a unique and flexible framework that will help users experience better connectivity and higher capacity within their radio networks.”
Base stations are configured to provide multichannel trunking capabilities. The 700 MHz base station supports integrated trunking control and has the ability to trunk with an 800 MHz OpenSky base station, increasing network capacity.
The 700 MHz base station supports 4-slot TDMA that permits as many as four radio users to access a single RF channel without interference, by allocating a unique time slot to each user within a channel. The base station also gives specialized mobile radio operators a flexible framework for implementing a wide-area network and provides a full feature set including inter-site roaming and frequency reuse.
The 700 MHz base station relies on OpenSky protocol to deliver simultaneous digital voice and data services. Additionally, Project 25 Phase I digital protocol is supported for interoperability purposes. M/A-Com developed the OpenSky wireless private network to meet specific needs for wide-area, digitally modulated trunked radio networks that provide integrated voice and data and that enable maximum use of spectrum resources. OpenSky can integrate all types of existing non-proprietary systems and, through the employment of NetworkFirst, supports interoperability with legacy networks, including analog, digital, conventional and trunked systems.
Enhanced EDACS system
M/A-Com has announced a new functionality for EDACS. The EDACS upgrades are intended to meet customers’ on-going voice and data needs with improved levels of security, capacity and technology integration, offering customers what the company said would be a reliable and trusted solution for a wide variety of critical communications needs.
“M/A-Com is committed to working with our EDACS customers to offer improved services as their communications needs evolve and new technologies become available,” says Dennis Maddox, a product manager of systems and infrastructure with M/A-Com. “M/A-Com recognizes the significant investment our customers are making in their communications systems and the importance of selecting the right technologies coupled with the ability of the system to grow and adapt as users’ needs change. We strive to ensure that our customers achieve the maximum return on their investment now and in the future.”
M/A-Com said that security is a crucial feature of any critical communications system because any security breach on a system would compromise its effectiveness and that of the public safety professionals that rely on it. EDACS security key (ESK) addresses this need with several features:
ESK allows each customer to define a unique security code that is programmed into the radio products and site equipment. During normal operation, if the code stored in the radio and site do not match, the radio would not receive calls from or transmit calls to that particular site.
ESK prevents trunked radio scanners from monitoring radio traffic on an EDACS site.
ESK offers restricted access to radio programming. Once a radio has been programmed with an ESK security code, that radio cannot be read or altered unless the specific code is provided by the user.
M/A-Com said that it also meets security challenges through its commitment to FIPS-140 certification. The FIPS-140 contains specifications that apply to the physical and functional security of encrypted telecommunications and computer equipment. EDACS encrypted radios are certified to this federal standard.
As the system needs for critical communications expand from a city scale to a statewide scale, radio systems must be able to support a tremendous volume of voice and data traffic. In addition, with a larger number of users on the network, it is even more important to have the ability of creating uniquely defined unit IDs and talk group IDs for effective communications. M/A-Com said that EDACS would meet these needs with support for one million units and 64,000 talk groups.
New EDACS systems will use LAN/WAN technology along with IP in management and control networks to enable high throughput and maximum link efficiency. M/A-Com said that its OpenSky trunked radio system is the only radio system to use end-to-end IP for the transmission of voice and data.
M/A-Com said that, given the significant cost to plan and install large-scale systems, technology refreshment is a significant concern as standards change and new technology becomes available. The company said that EDACS is designed for “easy upgradeability” as new technologies are introduced.
M/A-Com said that it had been responding to two trends in land mobile radio, narrowband operation and digital voice capability. EDACS radios now support an over-the-air modulation technique called C4FM that allows M/A-Com to offer its EDACS ProVoice encrypted digital voice products at 12.5kHz narrowband frequencies.
IP-based gateway links EDACS and OpenSky networks
A new IP-based gateway from M/A-Com interconnects EDACS and OpenSky communications networks, allowing customers of either system to take advantage of the other system’s features and functionality. The gateway permits lets customers benefit from multiple systems without having to invest in entirely new infrastructure or end-user equipment.
“M/A-Com understands our customers’ desire for flexible systems that are not limited to one technology and can be expanded as needs change in the future,” said Maddox.
By implementing the gateway, existing EDACS customers can take advantage of OpenSky’s benefits, including enhanced data transmission capabilities and TDMA airlink that allows four simultaneous conversations on each radio frequency channel. OpenSky customers can benefit from EDACS’ dispatch consoles, voice recording and telephone interconnect.
“EDACS also offers flexible radio site configurations in all public safety frequency bands so when the two systems are linked together with a high-speed, extended feature-set IP interface, there is no customer solution that cannot be achieved,” Maddox said.
The EDACS/OpenSky gateway is implemented using commercial-off-the-shelf hardware that routes IP-based digital voice and control data between the two radio systems. Any EDACS or OpenSky system can be expanded to include the gateway.