Vendors look to cash in on 800 MHz rebanding
MONTREAL—While Nextel Communications wrestles with its decision whether to accept the Federal Communications Commission’s order to reband 800 MHz airwaves to mitigate the interference that plagues public-safety communications nationwide, other vendors that serve the sector are focused on the opportunities that could emerge should rebanding actually occur.
One such company is Tyler, Texas-based Genesis Group, which has reconfigured its system-management software to enable public-safety agencies to use it as an auditing tool to determine how many of its radios need to be retuned or replaced. That knowledge is crucial leading up to the reband, said Phil Burks, president and CEO of Genesis Group, at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials conference.
“A pre-rebanding audit is very important. Public-safety agencies need to report accurately on the front end, otherwise they might have to pay the costs of retuning any radios they missed,” Burks said. “Also, they might be accused of reporting too many, and will have to have the proper documentation to prove their claims. Our goal is to make the system manager look like a hero.”
Burks added that the reconfigured software package operates in essentially the same manner as the system-management version. “It’s simply a matter of extracting the data into the reports they need to see,” he said.
While the rebanding opportunity will be relatively short-lived—should Nextel accept the FCC’s decision, rebanding would occur over a three-year period—Burks believes the auditing version of the software contains enough other tools to provide value over the long-haul.
“Cloning has become a big issue, for example,” Burks said. “We know of one tow-truck operator who cloned 200 radios of one public-safety agency and then sold the air time. Our software differentiates between the real user and the cloner.”
Other companies at APCO were promoting themselves as rebanding subcontractors. Public-safety officials face an important decision concerning whether they should handle the rebanding themselves or delegate the process to an outside entity, said APCO Member David Buchanan, a public-safety official in San Bernardino, Calif.
“They will have to determine their area of expertise,” Buchanan said. “For instance, will they need a project manager?”
Buchanan added that public-safety agencies would also be prudent to develop a solid backup plan before rebanding begins.
“You don’t want to do this on the blind faith that nothing will go wrong,” he said. “The one thing a public-safety agency doesn’t want is to have their system go off the air.”
For that reason, Buchanan also said Nextel may need to build a level of redundancy into the process to enable public-safety agencies to use their existing systems as rebanding occurs.