Icom America demonstrates indoor radio solution that leverages Wi-Fi connectivity
Enterprises wanting private-radio-communications functionality can do so at a fraction of the cost of a land-mobile-radio (LMR) network by implementing Icom America’s IP100 advanced radio system over existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, according to company officials.
“It basically gives you the ability to have pretty robust communications across existing networks,” Mark Jordan, Icom America’s technical channel manager, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We get this in front of people, and—once it clicks—it blows their mind. It’s just so far out of the box.”
For an enterprise with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, integrating the IP1000C controller—a piece of equipment measuring 6 inches by 10 inches—into the wireless LAN effectively provides radio functionality throughout the coverage area without the need to secure licensed spectrum, Jordan said, citing the example of a 40-floor hotel.
“In a plug-and-play fashion, they could have instant communications on every single floor thoughout the hotel, if they have an existing Wi-Fi or wireless LAN network,” he said. “No licensing, no repeaters, no drilling—the only installation is the configuration of a small server that you put on the network. And it operates exactly you would expect from an RF system, with group calls, individual calls and all calls.”
End users on the system carry IP100H radios, which are small—about 3.7 inches long and weighing 7.2 ounces—but feature a display area, up to 27 hours of battery life, support for full-duplex communications and strong audio quality, according to Jordan.
“You are going to be blown away by the audio,” he said. “You won’t believe that this is a digital radio. I’ve been disappointed by some of the different digital technologies—P25 just sounds terrible—but this sounds great.”
In addition, programming the radios across the Wi-Fi network is straightforward, thanks to over-the-air programming (OTAP), Jordan said.
“You program the radio once,” Jordan said. “You tell who it is, what to look at—meaning SSID—and where its controller is, and that’s the last time you have to touch it, because it’s OTAP. Any changes you need to make, you can make on the controller and it updates the radios instantly.”
To ensure good voice intelligibility and security, network operators need to activate the quality of service (QoS) options on the Wi-Fi system, according to Mark Behrends, Icom America’s senior manager of marketing.
“There is a QoS setting in IP in general, so you can prioritize voice and real-time video over data,” Behrends said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “You still have to size your network properly—you can’t get away from that—but once you have it in there, you can put QOS priority into this.”
Similarly, network operators can enable a level of security by activating standard Wi-Fi encryption options, Jordan said. In addition, with appropriate connectivity, the Icom IP100 system—demonstrated during IWCE 2015 in Las Vegas—can support communications between two campuses located anywhere in the world, he said.
When all factors are considered, the Icom IP100 solution is “extremely inexpensive for what you get,” Jordan said.
“In an RF system, to get the kind of performance that you get from this, it would require 10 times as much funding,” he said. “Let’s say you wanted to have a 50-channel trunked system, because you want 50 groups to be able to talk simultaneously. That cost would be astronomical.
“With one server, this allows you to have 50 simultaneous conversations. It’s incredible … When you get it in front of IT managers and put it into their language, they get instantly. They understand what you’re talking about, because it is very similar to a VoIP phone system.”