February 2014 Inbox
Friday, February 14, 2014 | 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.

 

In response to the point/counterpoint articles “Non-P25 Digital Technology Hurts Interoperability Efforts” and “Non-P25 Digital for Public Safety: Why Not?” from Feb. 19

Editor:

The points expressed by Mr. Powell and Mr. Marcus were very informative. Two more contrary perspectives could not be expressed. Without taking sides, it would appear that Mr. Marcus is overlooking the fact that the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International was commissioned many years ago to come up with an evolving technical standard that would address public-safety communications based on open standard technology that could meet both current and future needs. After much study, it was determined that the best standard for the United States would be Project 25 (P25) evolving through stages where capability improved as costs came down.

The people who spent their time on these committees were not short sighted or self serving with a view toward supporting their hometown communities, but rather they wanted to address the need for a system that could serve the needs of local, regional, statewide and national requirements. They actually knew about European communications technology that works very well in tiny countries and/or heavily populated areas, but the U.S. isn’t Europe or Japan. What they did know was that new spectrum was needed, and they got it in the 700 MHz band. Unfortunately, there was no top-down administrative policy to support the efforts of APCO and others working toward the development of a nationwide voice network.

One of the contributing factors that has led to delayed implementation of a nationwide standard is lack of a clear policy standard. Since 2007, the federal standard (Safecom) as well as most state communications interoperability plans (SCIPs) have clearly stated that the approved standard is 700 MHz P25. Unfortunately, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the one giving away the most money, has allowed "special circumstances" relating to local conditions to prevail over a national standard.

So what do we have today? A hodgepodge of systems that don’t talk to each other. After spending billions of dollars, we are no closer today to a common technical standard that is open to free market competition than we were when this all started. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

After almost a decade of procrastination in publishing a definitive standard, FEMA has finally provided guidance in an email sent Feb. 19. A copy of this information is available at http://falconinfo.blogspot.com/2014/02/fema-defines-p25.html. Based on this proclamation, our take on the situation is that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) really wants these 700 MHz systems built out and operational in short order.

You don't have to read between the lines to get the message. Users who want to buy anything other than P25 can use their own money to pay for it. The national plan is based on 700 MHz interoperability both for voice and broadband data and that is what it should be. Those that prefer analog, Digital Mobile Radio (DMR), NXDN or TETRA should have the right to select the technology platform of their choice as long as they are not using federal money to pay for it.

Burch Falkner
Falcon Wireless
Birmingham, Ala.

 

Editor:

While the two op-eds that you published in your electronic newsletter opened a dialogue on the issue of “interoperability,” they were both skewed toward a single, yet unmentioned, vendor. Motorola is not the only ballgame in town!

When the FCC issued its third report and order for narrowbanding in December 2004, they clearly laid out a technical specification and definition of what they wanted in the VHF and UHF bands. That is, 6.25-kilohertz channel width, FDMA modulation and a data rate of 4800 baud. To date, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, the FCC or any of the several radio manufacturers have brought to market a Project 25 (P25) radio that meets those specifications. So, until there is a P25 standard that meets those specific criteria, P25 interoperability is a dead issue.

The one technology that does meet the technical specifications put forth in the third report and order, NXDN, was not even mentioned by either author, once again showing their bias and limited vision. Multiple vendors support NXDN. It supports multi-site trunking for large urban systems, has major vendor console support and provides hooks for strong encryption. But, alas, neither Motorola nor Harris builds NXDN infrastructure or subscriber equipment. And even if they did, they would have to compete with others that have been in the marketplace for several years now.

True digital radio-to-radio interoperability will likely never be achieved. If the cellular providers, which serve a much larger pool of subscribers, have not been able to achieve it, what makes anyone think it will happen in the public-safety marketplace? But communications interoperability can be realized through the use of radio gateways, which every jurisdiction should install and maintain. And if all else fails, there is always analog mode.

Paul J. Toth, NB9X
Senior Advisor
Mance Tech Advisory

 


 

In response to “New Report Says Federal Users Should Pay Fee for Spectrum” from Feb. 6

Editor:

The proponents of the proposal to charge federal agencies for spectrum use have forgotten one important fact: Federal agencies don't make money. If such a proposal should come to pass, where will the funding for the fees come from? Think about it for a minute. That's right, it will come from our pocketbooks. While well intentioned, this proposal was not carried out to a realistic (note that I didn't say logical) conclusion.

Chuck Bishop
Owner, AHS Communications
MSgt (ret), NCOIC Systems Control, 223rd Combat Communications Squadron, AR ANG
WB5GFA

 


 

Click here for the January 2014 Inbox.
Click here for the November 2013 Inbox.
Click here for the October 2013 Inbox.



 



 
 
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