The next step
Public-safety agencies’ two-way radio equipment spending will continue to remain level or grow only slightly, because governments are collecting less tax revenue, said Steve Guller, president of Warner Communications, a two-way radio vendor near St. Louis. Guller said he doesn’t expect much spending in 2010 because his customers’ purchases are tied to tax dollars. “The collection of tax dollars has a tendency to lag behind the economy,” he said.
However, Guller said agencies continue to look at Project 25 products to build out future systems. Metro areas are the main purchasers. But he said that the drawback to P25 is that currently few data standards exist. As a result, many agencies are depending on cellular services for their data needs or are requesting Wi-Fi products, when ideally data should be integrated into voice communications, he said.
“The real problem is that if our industry doesn’t get our act together and get some real standards set for doing data along with the voice communications, when we finally do, we’re not going to have a lot of customers to sell it to,” Guller warned. “It’s going to be too late.”
For example, Guller said one customer has built out a separate data system supported by cellular services. This doesn’t bode well for public-safety officials who may approach local county boards or city councils in the future for additional budgetary dollars to support a P25 system.
“The problem is going to be when they go to county boards and say they’ve been using cellular service all this time and then ask for a chunk of change to add a data system,” Guller said. “The board is going to say, ‘That’s a lot of money; we are already using cellular service, so we are going to keep using it,’ even though they don’t get the fact that cellular networks are not built out for emergency services.
“So, their attitude is, ‘We’ve been using it all this time, why should we change? Why do we need to spend this extra money?’” he said.
The FCC’s narrowbanding mandate likely will present an opportunity, and Guller said he plans to work with customers to meet the Jan. 1, 2013, deadline set by the commission. However, many of his smaller customers have not created a plan to meet the deadline. Guller is encouraging them to take a big-picture approach to their communications by determining what they want to do in the next 10 years and work backward.
“If they take that master-plan approach to it, the people that hold the purse strings are more prone to spend money on things as part of an adopted master plan versus little compartmentalized expenditures,” he said.
More two-way radio offerings
The Project 25 TK-5410 portables and TK-5910 mobiles series bring a full-featured lineup of digital-analog two-way radio choices for public-safety agencies operating in the 700 and 800 MHz bands. All units include P25 conventional, P25 trunked and analog conventional modes of operation. In addition, the TK-7302 and TK-8302 series are specifically designed for business and industrial sectors such as agriculture, construction, utilities, transportation, local government and small /volunteer public safety, where MIL-STD/IP ruggedness, compactness, simple operation and low cost are paramount. Finally, the TK-2360/3360 VHF/UHF conventional portables offer a compact MIL-SPEC/IP platform, at 4 inches high, but offer full 5 W power across the 136-174, 450-520 and 400-470 MHz bands. They also operate at both 12.5 and 25 kHz bandwidths to meet the FCC’s narrowbanding requirements.
The IC-F50V series is a VHF or UHF radio and pager, all in one. The F50V series is IP67 submersible, MIL-SPEC rugged and has a Lithium-ion battery that runs several shifts without a recharge under normal use. Some features of the F50V series include a vibrate setting and page text messaging; auto-incoming call recording; on-demand voice recording; lone worker setting; wide spectrum coverage; 128 channels; 5 W output power; and a BTL amplified internal speaker offering 700 mW of audio output. The F50V series is MDC 1200 compatible.
Harris offers three multimode portable radios, the P7300, the P5300 and the P5400. The P7300 is a Project 25 Phase 2-upgradable radio that can host multiple operating modes, including P25 digital trunking, P25 digital conventional, analog conventional, EDAC or ProVoice. The radio operates in the 450-512 MHz band, or T-band, and has features similar to those provided by the P7200 in the 700/800 MHz bands. Meanwhile, the intrinsically safe P5300 and P5400 radios are for first responders operating in chemically volatile or explosive environments.
Motorola offers the APX 7500 multiband mobile radios and an expanded portfolio of its APX multiband portable radios. Available in two models — a high-power (25 to 110 watts) and a mid-power (10 to 35 watts) version — the APX 7500 mobile works in the VHF and 700/800 MHz bands in P25 systems, as well as Motorola’s SmartNet and SmartZone systems. It also is capable of working with Motorola’s new O9 integrated control head that will be available during the second half of 2010. The APX 7000 portable radio has been expanded to include operation in the UHF Range 1 frequency band. However, while the UHF capability has been added to the APX portfolio, the multiband family is designed to provide operation to two bands simultaneously, not all three bands covered by the portable radio, the company said.
The Liberty multiband software-defined portable is interoperable across all public safety bands (136-174, 380-520, 700, and 800 MH. It provides all modes standardized for public safety use, including analog FM and P25, conventional and trunked, and provides full encryption capabilities, including DES, AES, and OTAR. Its MIL-SPEC metal housing is submersible to 2 meters.
EF Johnson Technologies added UHF and VHF mobile radios to its 5300 ES Series Project 25-compliant product portfolio. The radios include SMARTNET/SmartZone operation, over-the-air rekeying and reprogramming, support for as many as 864 talk groups, P25 packet data and DES/DES-OFB/AES encryption algorithms.
Freewave Technologies offers the LRS455 licensed radio for the gas, water/wastewater, electric and municipality markets. The radio offers 19.2 kb/s throughput on a 12.5 kHz channel, a 70-mile range and RF propagation characteristics in 430-470 MHz frequencies at 2 watts. It is suited for long-distance SCADA applications located within rough terrain or heavy tree coverage.
Tait Radio Communications
Tait Radio Communications is now offering a dual-head P25 mobile radio. Each control head can be mounted a considerable distance from the radio, which is advantageous for in-building applications, the company said. Tait also offers a unencrypted, non-intrinsically safe version of its TP9135 portable radio, which sells for about 30% less than the more robust version.