Director of Michigan P25 network clarifies L3Harris role: ‘No intentions to swap out any of the system’
Agencies on Michigan’s statewide P25 system again are able to buy L3Harris Technologies equipment for their operations on the network, but the system director said there is no shift from Motorola Solutions, despite significant industry speculation sparked by a recent L3Harris new release about its role in the state, according to the system director.
Brad Stoddard, director of the Michigan Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS), said the L3Harris press release—entitled “State of Michigan selects L3Harris Technologies for public-safety communications technology system”—has created “plenty of intrigue and myriad questions” about the P25 network. In reality, there are no plans to switch any existing gear in the 25-year-old Motorola Solutions-built P25 statewide system, he said.
“It definitely appeared as if we’re switching network [vendors], and that’s not what we’re doing,” Stoddard said, referring to the L3Harris press release during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “There are no intentions right now to swap out any of the system with L3Harris.”
There is a new agreement between MPSCS and L3Harris that effectively re-establishes the ability for Michigan agencies to purchase L3Harris P25 end-user equipment—such as portable and mobile radios—that had been approved by MPSCS.
But L3Harris gear was removed from this approval list more than a year ago, when the previous MPSCS-L3Harris agreement expired, Stoddard said. From a practical standpoint, this made it difficult for most MPSCS to secure funding to buy L3Harris gear, if they chose to do so. The new agreement—the reason last week’s press release was issues—means that L3Harris equipment again is an option for MPSCS users, according to Stoddard.
“There was no means for state agencies to purchase any L3Harris radios [prior to the new agreement],” he said. “We wanted to make sure that there was a contract for agencies to leverage, so they could purchase radios.”
This designation also has significance beyond the state of Michigan, according to Stoddard. As one of the largest P25 statewide networks in the U.S. with more than 119,000 users, the MPSCS equipment-approval list is referenced by other P25 systems, he said.
Stoddard said that one of his priorities has been to expand the dispatch-console options for MPSCS agencies, and he long been interested in the Symphony console from L3Harris—although the company was still known as Harris when the discussions began.
“It’s been a request from our user community that they would like to see more options in [dispatch] consoles,” Stoddard said. “Right now, it’s the Symphony consoles [that MPSCS wants to evaluate]. As they have whatever replaces the Symphony, our intentions were to test those.
“Just as we do for radios, we want to start vetting consoles. There are some options out there for our local agencies to utilize. Today, most of them are Motorola consoles, and they work great. But just like with radios, agencies are just looking for options.”
L3Harris expressed support for this MPSCS philosophy in a L3Harris statement provided today to IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
“We applaud Brad [Stoddard] and his office of technology for being so forward-thinking and innovative,” according to the L3Harris statement. “Closed networks and propriety solutions are a way of the past. Now is the time for change and moving away from a closed ecosystem provides open competition to the people, taxpayers and the first responders of Michigan.”
Many P25 systems support radios and consoles from different vendors, but the portion of the last week’s L3Harris press release that probably created the most intrigue within the public-safety industry was a statement that L3Harris “will supply … L3Harris P25 infrastructure” to MPSCS.
Stoddard said he would like to have the option of utilizing P25 network components from different vendors in Michigan, but it is not a practical option to use infrastructure gear from a vendor other than Motorola Solutions at this time.
“I know that, from the P25 standards, they are not there yet to provide the capability of what we see in LTE—being able to take channels out from one manufacturer and put it into another manufacturer’s space, and it still works like it’s supposed to,” Stoddard said. “I’ve been part of those discussions within the P25 Steering Committee and within the TR-8 [TIA standards committee], and we are just not close to that yet.
“As part of the P25 network challenges, that’s not a capability out there … Even if we had an interest to do that, I can’t … It’s something that I’ve been vocal about for a number of years, and I know I’m not unique. We’d like to see a little more of this in the P25 space that we see in LTE—being able to switch infrastructure components, without having to switch an entire system.”
Given this, there is no P25 infrastructure equipment being purchased in the new MPSCS agreement with L3Harris, although Stoddard noted that the contract is worded in a manner that would allow for the potential of infrastructure-gear integration if standards “breakthroughs” happen that makes it practical.
“We’d at least like to put it on the radar, so they’re keeping a focus on it,” Stoddard said.
Stoddard was quoted in last week’s L3Harris press release.
“The MPSCS plays an important role in providing our state’s public safety partners with a reliable and sound lifeline,” Stoddard said in the press release. “Teaming up with L3Harris continues to provide additional technology choices for all first responders across Michigan.
“Allowing the public-safety community to move throughout an area without concern of their ability to communicate and having a dependable and easy-to-use system has always been our mission. Our continued focus of partnering with manufacturers—testing and validating their technology for use—benefits public safety in Michigan while also other states that look to us for our leadership in this area.”
Nino DiCosmo, president of the L3Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications (PSPC) business unit, also expressed optimism about the new agreement with MPSCS in the company’s press release.
“This partnership will continue to improve interoperability and information sharing among public safety agencies across Michigan and bordering states,” DiCosmo said in the press release. “Our state-of-the-art technology is designed to meet the rugged needs and high-reliability demands of the MPSCS.”