Carlson Wireless introduces rapid-deployment microwave system
Arcata, Calif.–based Carlson Wireless Technologies recently launched the Trailblazer 4 x 4 Rapid Deployment Kit, which enables public-safety agencies to quickly establish voice and data communications in the aftermath of emergencies.
The system’s microwave radio is configured to provide a turnkey point-to-point link. Point-to-multipoint connectivity also is available as an option. It operates on the licensed 4.9 GHz band set aside for public-safety broadband communications, but versions are available that operate on unlicensed 2.4 GHz and 5.x spectrum.
It is primarily a voice radio, but it provides data speeds in both directions that are about one-third of what a T1 line would provide, which should be adequate for everything but large files, said Jim Carlson, the company’s CEO and chief technical officer. An integrated Ethernet port lets users connect myriad data devices, including laptop computers.
“This is a [time-division multiplex] product line, so it carries voice as well as the telephone company carries voice,” Carlson said. “The Ethernet is put over top of the time slots so that the voice is preserved and Ethernet is secondary. But it still will carry enough data to do the normal things at an incident. It’s great for anything under 10 Mb.”
The system is designed in large measure to provide wireless backhaul capabilities in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Typically, leased telephone lines are used to backhaul voice and data traffic from the mountaintop repeater, which is a big problem when a tornado, hurricane or earthquake has destroyed those lines, Carlson said.
“When that happens, we can immediately replicate those leased lines by wireless means, and from the mountaintop feed that audio from the repeater system back down to the control point,” Carlson said.
However, the system’s radio also contains four POTS interfaces that enable first responders to communicate with their home bases.
“They can immediately connect to the PBX system in their headquarters. That, along with the data capability, allows them to set up an instant command post during an emergency,” Carlson said.
The system’s versatility caught the eye of Bill Graham of the Alabama Department of Public Safety, which consists of six divisions including the Bureau of Investigation and the Highway Patrol. “It has so many possibilities, it’s difficult to list them all,” Graham said.
The rugged Pelican case — which carries a NEMA 4x rating — contains everything needed for a field deployment, including the radio, 19-dBi panel antennas (directional and omnidirectional), cables and accessories.
“It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to set up,” Carlson said. “It’s almost automatic. All you have to do is power it up and possibly aim the antenna.”
The need to aim the antenna depends on topography, Carlson added. “If they’re in a rural area and they have to go five miles from one point to another, they’d probably want to use a directional antenna,” he said. “If they’re only transmitting over a mile or two, they might be able to get by with an omnidirectional.”
The antenna range of the included panels is five miles, but that can be extended to as far as 40 miles through the use of higher-gain parabolic antennas, according to the company.
The system operates on commercial, solar, generator or battery power. The battery charges while the system is running on commercial, solar or generator power. It takes about two hours to fully recharge the battery. When fully charged, the battery provides about eight hours of operation. Solar-power operation is optional; such systems are provided with a larger battery.
Because the system draws just 4-6 watts, it will “run for weeks” on solar power, Carlson said.
The system is shipping now and costs just under $10,000, the company said.