Land mobile industry makes strides
After several years of what seemed like malaise in the land mobile industry, IWCE this year seemed to be quite a turn-around.
If you were there, you saw a larger turnout than the past several years and a huge number of public-safety users. Certainly, this was partly spurred by the NPSTC meeting, the Regional Planning Colloquium, NENA’s training seminars and the multitude of public-safety sessions during the three days.
By providing LMR training for IT professionals, IWCE saw a much larger contingent in attendance from this part of the industry. Hopefully, the training that was provided will aid IT professionals that might now be responsible for oversight of radio frequency systems.
Thus, with the increased emphasis on the user community, IWCE has now become an excellent opportunity for manufacturers, dealers and users to mix and mingle, providing useful interaction and education that can assist in moving the industry forward on interoperability and next-generation equipment. It truly is a place where the industry comes together.
In other IWCE sessions, attendees posed excellent questions during Morgan O’Brien’s Cyren Call keynote. They raised issues that must be addressed for the proposal to gain traction. A similar proposal from M2Z Networks means that folks outside of public safety are finally starting to recognize the importance of public-safety communications.
For those who are spending much of their day working on rebanding matters, Sprint Nextel and the Transition Administrator announced a fast-track process for a large number of Planning Funding Requests (see column on page 30). Perhaps even more important, Nextel stated that the equipment replacement lists on each manufacturer’s Web site were, for the most part, definitive.
To me, the introduction of 6.25 kHz narrowband equipment by Icom and Kenwood, and Motorola’s announcement of future availability of 12.5 kHz TDMA equipment, brings a new excitement and energy to the industry. Finally, digital land mobile equipment will be available at reasonable prices for the 150 MHz and 450 MHz bands. With each of the manufacturers building backward-compatibility into the radios, there is now a legitimate digital migration path for these workhorse bands.
By unveiling narrowband (6.25 kHz FDMA) and equivalent efficiency (12.5 TDMA) equipment, manufacturers have given the industry options in how to become more efficient and meet the FCC’s 2013 mandatory narrowbanding deadlines. Furthermore, Icom and Kenwood’s use of a common air interface (CAI) raises the possibility of additional manufacturers building 6.25 kHz equipment, which will help drive down prices. Moreover, it is certainly possible that the Icom/Kenwood CAI could wind up as the P25 standard for 6.25 kHz bandwidth equipment.
What all of these things make clear is that the industry is moving forward. The buzzword of convergence, long spoken about in the industry (and certainly a reality on the commercial side of the industry), has now become a reality. I don’t believe that we’ll be looking at land mobile iPods receiving workout feedback from sneakers (as Apple and Nike recently announced), but the technology developed for that purpose certainly has potential application for land mobile users. Years ago, Tony Sabino of Regional Communications preached that land mobile dealers should no longer think of themselves as just land mobile dealers, but rather as wireless system integrators. That prediction has now come to pass for the vast majority of the industry.
Finally, we have some good news in the industry. I’d hate to be so optimistic as to declare that a new day is dawning, but no one can argue that this year’s IWCE featured a lot more positive news. I hope that you can catch the wave.
Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio and Internet industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker and can be reached at [email protected].