July 2011 Inbox
Friday, July 15, 2011 | Comments
Following are comments we’ve received from readers about recent online and print news and articles. If you’d like to comment on an article, email edit@RRMediaGroup.com.
Have we not learned anything from the experience of the public-safety 800 MHz voice network that the state police have been building and building at a high cost to taxpayers? It doesn't cover well — not well enough for them not to need a second (or third or fourth) radio on a different band in the more rural areas. Do they even offer to share its capacity (which is plentiful) with the regional or local public-safety entities by giving them their own logical groups on the same system with a few shared groups they can switch to for local incident response?
I don't see this happening — perhaps because the locals don't want to trade their good coverage for the state police’s lousy coverage. The locals are still holding onto their high-band and low-band VHF radios because they cover well and because the towns cannot afford to replace all of the radios in all of the police, fire and ambulance vehicles.

With the status of the 800 MHz fiasco known (although not advertised) why on earth would we consider giving them 700 MHz spectrum to spend even more of our taxpayer dollars on? At the same time, we are supporting the federally funded broadband initiatives and will soon have broadband access everywhere. Public safety and government offices will use this fiber network. It won't reach the vehicles, but I don't have great confidence that public safety will be able to afford the bandwidth to the vehicles given their track record with 800 MHz. How much more can we expect our state taxpayers to cough up?

Dolly Wrona
IT Telecom Engineer
Northeast Utilities Service Company
Hartford, Conn.
We are in 2011 and radios have worked fine so far.  No need to waste money on more expensive updated equipment.
Jason Reynolds

While I personally applaud the efforts of Relm President Dave Storey, I also understand the realities of life. This is a classic David versus Goliath (and friends) situation. The last time I recall the guy with the slingshot being victorious was thousands of years ago. Things will change only when concerned citizens stand together for fairness and efficiency in government and elected representatives committed to serving the people who put them there, not those who pay to keep them there.
Burch Falkner
President, Falcon Direct
Birmingham, Ala.

In response to “Lessons Learned from a Narrowbanding Project” from July 27
Great information... Pretty much in-line with the 800 MHz rebanding projects as to what has to be done.
Mike Wren

In response to “FCC Confirms Narrowbanding Fees in Public Notice” from July 14
Has the FCC’s hardball stance on the deadline for narrowbanding turned into a game of slow-pitch softball? It’s beginning to look like it. Just about every article published to date has quoted the FCC as not wavering on the deadline date.
Now, in FCC Notice DA 11-1189 of July 13, they once again emphasize the deadline dates. But, on page two, they provide a whole section titled “Guidance for Submitting Requests for Waivers of the Narrowbanding Deadline.” This two-page section not only provides guidance for submitting your extension, but also gives recommendations of things to submit to help make sure you get your request through.
I must admit, this seemingly small and somewhat cryptic addition to the notice has restored some of my faith in the FCC. Obviously, they have taken a realistic look at just how many organizations and municipalities are finding themselves in extremis because of old equipment that can’t be narrowbanded and the lack of funds to modify or replace it. I am convinced that these organizations and municipalities do not want to break the law or go against the FCC, but circumstances (like the economy) dictate otherwise. Let’s face it, imposing fines on those who don’t have the money to pay is almost as bad as taking the radios (or licenses) away from the police and firefighters.
John Larribeau
Electronic Communications Systems Technician
Spokane City Radio Shop
Spokane, Wash.

This certainly shows that the legislators have no technical background and make decisions based on no knowledge of what the users actually require. Narrow LMR channels are essential to operations and can’t be replaced by low-power network subscriber units that can’t support one-to-many or off-network communications. Now we have economist and lawyers rather than engineers making decisions.
Bernie Olson

In response to “Sizing Up PMR Devices” from July 12
Mr. Lum:
I have been working for a Motorola dealership in Kansas for the past 4.5 years. Being in customer service and not having received technical training, I am constantly trying to educate myself to serve our customers. I consider myself a customer advocate and try to communicate on a layman’s level to our customers through our website, Facebook and other media.
Your recent article was about the clearest explanation of the differences in two-way radios and cell phones I have ever read. I have placed a link to it from our company’s Facebook page to give our customers a better understanding.
I just want to write you and let you know how much I appreciated it.
Pam Tucker
Customer Service

What am I to do with three GPS receivers I already own and use? What already is in place should be allowed to stay as is, and give manufacturers at least 10 years, as well as users to be allowed to use the life from the instruments already being used and currently in production.
Mike Townsend

Interesting. When the industry is trying to move to a narrower bandwidth (6.25 kilohertz), TETRA and other systems occupy 25 kilohertz bandwidth, making it more difficult to acquire frequency channels. Digital Private Mobile Radio (dPMR) and NEXEDGE systems can occupy 6.25 kilohertz, which makes them spectrum efficient. Shouldn't we start pressurizing the bandwidth hungry systems to start "dieting" and come in line?
TDMA is not efficient because you always use 25 kilohertz, where with FDMA you don't always have to have all four channels.
Leon van der Linde
Technical Division
Global Communications
Pretoria, South Africa

In response to “4 Text 9-1-1 Proposals” from the June issue of MissionCritical Communications on Page 29
The article states, "The public-safety answering point (PSAP) identifies the call as a registered silent 9-1-1 user, and the PSAP initiates and exchanges SMS text messages with the caller to service the emergency response."

I would like to know how this is done. What technology is used? What is the interface the PSAP uses to interact with the caller and then place those notes in their CAD system? Will it show some type of automatic number/location identification (ANI/ALI) or latitude/longitude along with caller information? This is what I would have thought to be the most important part of the article but I could not find it anywhere.
My second question is on TTY Emulation. Could you please also expand on how this works? I believe it would have to be a TTY emulation app for a smartphone. Is there any out there? Has anyone done any testing with these?

Author’s Response:
To answer the first part of your question, identification of a caller’s phone number as a “registered silent 9-1-1 user” could be accomplished by the 9-1-1 customer premise equipment (CPE), the CAD provider or via a third-party product. Third-party providers include Smart911, Indigital, Intrado or Agent911. Some 9-1-1 CPE has the ability to pre-populate information attached to a phone number. When a 9-1-1 call is made from that phone number, the CPE recognizes it and can alert the call-taker to the fact that the calling number has been pre-registered as a “silent user.”
CAD products should also have this capability, as well as the aforementioned third-party vendors. Some of the products can provide more information including photos, addresses, emergency contacts, medical information, etc. If the Teletypewriter (TTY) functionality of the CPE is used for messaging with a registered caller, then the ability to dump the message records to the CAD should be inherent in the system. If a center chooses to use a third party for the messaging interface, a link between the third-party software and the CAD would need to be created.
Connectivity to allow for short message service (SMS) messaging can be done in several ways. A solution was demonstrated at the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) conference in 2010 using a standard commercial wireless modem obtained from one of the cellular providers that was connected to the 9-1-1 CPE. This $49.99 a month service would allow ample bandwidth for a small- to perhaps medium-sized centers to successfully handle SMS messaging. Larger centers could use multiple modems or create a direct physical network with a larger bandwidth to a wireless provider.
ANI/ALI information can be displayed. Keep in mind that in this scenario, the caller is dialing 9-1-1 from a cell phone, which shall result in the delivery of Phase I and/or Phase II information that is received on all wireless calls.
In response to your second question, testing has been done, but I am not aware of an app being commercially available for a smartphone yet. There are smartphones that have the ability to connect to a portable TTY device, but carrying around an additional device is not practical.  
Each of the interim text 9-1-1 solutions has limitations. In the case of TTY emulation, there are several key things to be considered. One, the caller needs to have access to a smartphone that contains the app. Two, the caller needs to have voice capability on the phone, which is not always the case with a hearing/voice impaired person as they generally have no need for voice capability.

Click here for the June 2011 Inbox.
Click here for the May 2011 Inbox.
Click here for the April 2011 Inbox.

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