Michigan, Indiana Test LMR, LTE Connections Across State Lines
Monday, August 10, 2020 | Comments
The Michigan Public Safety Communication System (MPSCS) connected its Astro 25 network with the Indiana Integrated Public-Safety Commission’s (IPSC) statewide Astro 25 network, allowing interoperable LMR-to-LMR, LMR-to-LTE and LTE-to-LTE communications.

The two states have spent the last nine months working with each other to connect their networks in order to be able to provide mutual aid at the border. The borders can cause issues for responders attempting to provide mutual aid across state lines because generally, as soon as they cross that line, they lose connection to their home network.

“Incidents don’t happen along government borders,” said MPSCS Director Brad Stoddard.

To make the connection between the states possible, the states worked with Motorola Solutions and used its Critical Connect technology. Critical Connect is a cloud-based technology through which separate networks can be connected when needed or constantly, said Chris Lonnett, Motorola vice president for sales for the central region.

Initially, the two states were thinking of using the technology mostly for communities on the border, where mutual aid may take responders across state lines but then started looking at other situations that would benefit from interoperability.

Stoddard highlighted the 2016 Republican National Convention, during which responders from nearby states such as Michigan came to support the operations. Normally, when agencies provide this kind of support, someone would need to reprogram all of the responders providing support, which could prove time consuming.

Whenever customers using the Critical Connect technology need a connection between the different networks, they can contact Motorola, and Motorola will create that connection for as long as it is needed, said Lonnett.

For an event such as a national political convention, the connection could be activated and those responders would instantly have communications without having to reprogram all their radios and equipment.

“Now, from an efficiency standpoint, we’ve made it much more efficient for responders to show up and just start communicating,” said Stoddard.

Additionally, the link can be left active at all times, and Stoddard anticipates that the states might use this capability along the state border regions where responders might need the connection immediately because of a rapidly developing situation such as a car chase across state lines.

Because many agencies are supplementing their LMR communications with LTE, the Critical Connect system does not connect just LMR communications but can also connect LMR communications to LTE and LTE to LTE regardless of cellular carrier. The ability to provide interoperability across the different technologies allows agencies to remain flexible and use the communications tools that best support their needs, Stoddard said.

“There are some areas that might be covered by FirstNet, and some may be covered by Verizon,” Stoddard said. “We know there isn’t a single carrier that can cover every area of the country.”

Indiana and Michigan have been testing the connection with technical staff for about the last 30 days and have successfully transmitted both LMR and LTE data over the connection. In August and September, the states plan to begin testing with responders in the field.

The MPSCS will celebrate its 25th anniversary in September, and the network staff hopes to use the testing to show users how it is continually building upon that initial base and leveraging new technology to provide the communications they need.

After that testing is completed, Indiana and Michigan hope to have the capability available for cross-border interoperability in October.

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