Trade associations change face of LMR
The merger of the American Mobile Telecommunications Association with the Industrial Telecommunications Association, which created the Enterprise Wireless Alliance, represents the culmination of major changes in the land mobile radio industry. With these changes, the industry emerges as a far different group than has been the norm for many years.
Fifteen years ago, the LMR industry consisted of a variety of entities serving a variety of communications needs. A snapshot of the industry included internal radio users using in-house expertise, radio dealers with many “base and two” customers and push-to-talk (P2T) communications being the primary service.
Today, the base and two has gone to cellular service. Many large radio shops sold their 800 MHz spectrum to Nextel (and others are selling their 900 MHz authorizations now). Internal radio users are increasingly utilizing outside resources to meet their communications needs. And P2T is offered by a variety of cellular operators, prompting many radio dealers to offer a variety of communications services.
There were enough radio dealers 15 years ago (particularly large dealers) willing to pay enough association dues to keep several LMR trade associations in business. Now, the shrinking number of dealers, particularly larger dealers, and the significantly reduced number of applications requiring frequency coordination, has created an environment where multiple trade associations representing essentially the same industry are not an economically feasible alternative. Thus, a reduction in the number of redundant groups, either through merger or elimination, will hopefully create an entity that will have enough resources to properly represent that industry.
However, that effort will be insufficient without your participation and input. The reduced number of industry participants means that smaller dealers must step up and support the trade association of their choice, both financially and on committees. Sitting on the sidelines complaining is no longer an option. Constructive, productive participation is the only means by which trade associations can take positions that will positively impact the membership.
This is not to suggest that the LMR industry is in a slump. A review of my last column demonstrates that I don’t believe that analysis. Rather, we’re at the end of a major change in structure. Participatory entities in this environment can thrive for many years to come. The infusion of major cash from Nextel, paying radio dealers nationwide to re-tune radios, as well as homeland defense funding, will facilitate the changeover to an LMR industry that is many more things than it has been in the past.
Pick your association, and support it with your dollars and participation. Recognize that you won’t always get your way, but work with other members to come to positions that recognize each other’s needs and interests. Doing so makes for more successful efforts at the FCC. In fact, over the past 10 years, LMR losses can be directly tied to the lack of a fair, cohesive, palatable position. There is much to be gained through cooperation and plenty to giveaway through disarray.
Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio, Internet and entertainment industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker and can be reached at [email protected].
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