New York downplays reported test problems with M/A-COM system
Problems arising during the initial testing of the New York Statewide Wireless Network were anticipated and should be fixed by M/A-COM in April, when state officials will decide whether to proceed with the $2 billion project, a state spokesman said.
Media reports last month raised concern about the initial trial of the public-safety radio system conducted in the western New York counties of Erie and Chautauqua, quoting disappointed participants in the network’s performance during the test. But Karl Felsen, a spokesman for New York state’s office for technology, said state officials are not alarmed by the test results.
“It’s interesting that some articles in the media portrayed it as a ‘failed test,’” Felsen said during an interview with MRT. “Certainly the test didn’t fail; it did exactly what it was supposed to do. It’s a test for failures. It’s a test to find gaps—software bugs, interference, coverage gaps, whatever.”
Indeed, such issues were discovered in preliminary testing, Felsen said. Coverage issues were expected, because the network was not fully deployed in Erie and Chautauqua counties at the time of the test. Interference was received from multiple sources, including cellular systems that will be rebanded and a Canadian television station that also is scheduled to move to new frequencies relatively soon, he said.
Myriad software issues were revealed during the test, but those problems apparently have been fixed, Felsen said.
“They have been addressed, according to some beta testing we’ve done in New York City, he said. “So the software issues should be a thing of the past. … We’ll do more testing, and we may find something else, but at least all the software issues we hit upon in that western New York test have been resolved at this point.”
M/A-COM spokesperson Victoria Dillon described the media reports surrounding the test as a “brouhaha over nothing,” also noting that it was a preliminary trial. During an interview with MRT, Dillon said the issues likely received more attention because users were allowed on the system much earlier than normal.
“I think the state did a laudable job in trying to get the users involved as early as possible, but the system was not fully deployed when they were on it, so their experience was not probably what they would have liked,” she said.
Indeed, Felsen said the state has acknowledged that attempting to conduct initial technical and operational tests at the same time was a mistake.
“One thing we learned was not to do that again—make sure you’ve done the buildout and the technical testing before you do the operational testing,” he said. “You have these technical tests going on, and you’re trying to find out whether you have coverage. That’s a different agenda than your operational people, who want to be testing the usability of the features.
“Of course, the features are not going to be usable if they don’t have the coverage. We just found that it’s best to not have those overlap.”
As a result, the technical and operational tests in New York City will be done separately, Felsen said. Meanwhile a second test will be conducted in Erie and Chautauqua counties in February, assuming weather permits M/A-COM to finish its deployment and network tweaks by then, he said.
“It’s a matter of addressing each of those three areas, and one of them has been totally addressed at this point,” Felsen said. “The other two are in the process of being addressed, and the proof will be in the pudding in future tests.”
Following these tests, the state will decide in April whether to accept the networks in these two regions—a choice that effectively will determine whether the state will proceed with the $2 billion project that is scheduled to be completed in 2010, Felsen said. Felsen said he believes all the test problems can be addressed and that M/A-COM has a significant monetary incentive to do so. If the state does not accept the networks in the two regions and abandons the project, M/A-COM would not receive any money.
“Not only is there no upfront payment to M/A-COM, but there is a performance bond,” he said. “You have to figure that they’ve put tens of millions of dollars into this, and there is a $100 million performance bond. So they are obviously highly motivated to perform. That’s a very nice feature of the contract from the state’s perspective, because it does provide incredibly strong motivation.”