Dow Promotes Interests of USMSS Member Companies
Monday, July 01, 2013 | Comments

Bill Dow is the executive director of USMSS, an association and advocacy group of certified Motorola Solutions service partners nationwide. He is charged with the promotion of member companies inside the industry and to adjacent businesses. Dow manages the daily operations of the trade association and staff. There are 142 USMSS member companies located in all 50 states, up from 122 last September.

Dow joined Motorola in 1983, and in 1989, worked as a service center manager in Alsip, Ill., serving Motorola’s customers in Chicago’s south side and suburbs. In 1995, he joined Miner Electronics in Munster, Ind., as general manager, becoming president in 2005. He took on his current post last August. Dow serves as the USMSS representative to the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) as a member of the board of directors.

MCC: How has USMSS changed in recent years?

Dow: We have initiated and promoted industry certifications for our members. Technicians, service managers and customer service representatives in our member businesses are certified professionals. We work closely with the Electronic Technicians Association (ETA) to develop and apply certifications for our personnel. We also work with the Certified Service Center organization to qualify our members as certified service centers to set our membership apart from other two-way service companies. We have also successfully encouraged Motorola to embrace these certifications as the criteria to be associated with the manufacturer.

MCC: How has narrowbanding affected your members?

Dow: Narrowbanding has offered three main opportunities for our members. It gave members the opportunity to reach out to their customers. Shops had to systematically contact customers, verify inventories, and reprogram or replace non-compliant radios. The unfunded mandate forced creativity, logistical cooperation and renewed the servicer/customer relationship.

The obvious outcome is that there was a tremendous influx of revenue into all of the servicers in the country regardless of affiliation. Whether you reprogrammed or replaced radios, or you increased revenue on service contracts by increasing inventories, all companies benefitted. When the economic downturn hit in 2008, some companies were hurting and unable to invest in future technologies. Today, the industry is as healthy as it’s been in several years.

With the decreased range of narrowbanded systems, a national conversation took place about digital radio and applications. A huge replacement of analog systems with digital is taking place, and a renewal in wide-area systems that we haven’t seen since the end of 800 MHz SMRs and the insurgence of Nextel. Our industry is reclaiming some of the verticals lost to Nextel with regional digital radio systems using embedded applications like status and GPS.

One of our biggest challenges is getting all our customers into compliance. The technical workforce has been stretched to its limit with all the reprogramming that has been done and still has to be done. Technicians’ vacations have been cancelled or deferred, and everyone is short handed. I expect this to continue throughout the remainder of 2013.

MCC: What are your thoughts on Motorola’s TETRA in North America stance?

Dow: After Motorola fought the introduction of TETRA in the United States, it is no surprise that it will not distribute the standard domestically. In this country, TETRA has a limited marketplace. In the short term (10 years), public safety is absolutely committed to the Project 25 (P25) standard. We still see significant investment in P25 with an eye forward to Long Term Evolution (LTE) at least in data applications. If the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) initiative is successful, LTE will be the next big thing is public safety. In industrial/business, TETRA only plays at UHF; it is not available below 160 MHz. This leaves railroads, transit and the utility markets, which may be part of FirstNet’s yet-to-be-published business plan including secondary responders and interoperability. The Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) standard is already established in the industrial/business marketplace. There will be some TETRA successes in the three verticals, which tend to be large fleets, but it will not adversely affect our members in the long run.

MCC: What impact has Sprint’s shutdown of the iDEN network had?

Dow: The impact of Sprint’s shutdown has created a renaissance for “all you can drink” push-to-talk (PTT) dispatch radio. Along with the embedded software solutions available in DMR radio systems, we have seen many regional systems built during the past five to seven years. Many of our members have used their tower space and installed MOTOTRBO systems in their local areas. Through narrowbanding, FB8 channels have become available, and the technology is affordable. Many members have connected their systems with their neighbors throughout the country offering attractive, workable large footprints. With the decommissioning of the Nextel network and Sprint’s low retention rate, these regional systems are filling up with the service and transportation companies that we lost in the mid-1990s following the 800 MHz auctions that created Nextel.

MCC: How can the industry foster more and future RF technicians?

Dow: The biggest challenge for members is finding good technical people. The trade schools and junior colleges have moved their curriculums solidly into the IT revolution. Because we have migrated to software-defined devices, RF is not taught in the educational institutions. We have identified a place where it is still taught or at least exposure is given — the military. In response to this universal issue, USMSS formed an alliance with a placement firm that specializes in recruiting candidates who have recently or will soon exit the military. Not only does the alliance infuse the industry with technical competence and youth, it integrates those who sacrificed for our country back into the civilian workforce. These individuals have an excellent work ethic, are self disciplined and strive for excellence. I am proud of this endeavor, and our members have embraced the program on all levels.

MCC: How will FirstNet affect your members?

Dow: FirstNet is the No. 1 issue for our members in the long term. We see states and local public safety highly invested in LMR systems. This is the strength of most of our members. We have significant market share in public safety, maintaining thousands of these systems nationally. All 50 states have applied for the planning grants to plan for the LTE system. Also, if mission critical quality voice is developed and gains public-safety confidence, it is a game changer. If the system is developed properly, it will be a separate, hardened system not susceptible to the shortcomings of cellular networks. I believe that the FirstNet board of directors is dedicated to this concept. The technology has promoted individuals experienced in cellular networks, which makes sense. But the approach and mindset in deploying and maintaining this system should be uniquely public safety. That’s what makes our members the right organization to be highly involved in the FirstNet buildout and ongoing maintenance. We have partnered with public safety and have been providing 24-hour emergency service for 50 years.

Editor’s Note: An abbreviated version of this article is in the July issue of MissionCritical Communications on Page 66. 

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