Trade-In Programs Encourage Mission-Critical Radio Upgrades
Tuesday, November 10, 2015 | Comments

In an environment of technology uncertainty and limited budgets, many agencies are waiting as long as possible to upgrade their radios and networks. In response, some manufacturers and dealers are offering trade-in programs to incentivize agencies to refresh their equipment.

“Users are holding on to their equipment as long as possible,” said John North, vice president of sales, enterprise systems, at JVCKENWOOD USA. “Emerging technologies have customers confused, which can slow down buying decisions. Budget cuts have also contributed to a downward trend in purchases.”

While putting off buying decisions is understandable when budgets are tight, manufacturers say waiting too long to upgrade equipment can leave agencies vulnerable to a variety of risks.

“Many technologies are close to or are already obsolete or near their end of life,” said North. “Lack of support for existing systems is a growing issue and, in many cases, failures cause down time for end users, which could create both a safety and a financial risk.”

After studying buying trends among its customers, Harris discovered many were using radios that are up to 15 years old, several years beyond the recommended radio lifespan of eight to 10 years, said Todd Perdieu, senior manager of radio products at the company. To encourage turnover of older equipment, Harris developed a trade-in program that officially launched in September.

Perdieu outlined three main reasons why it is important for customers to upgrade their radios, including improvements in functionality such as audio quality, battery life and form factor; technology advances that add GPS, Bluetooth and Long Term Evolution (LTE) capabilities to devices; and better overall product quality gleaned from experience gained in the past decade of technology innovation.

Harris’ refresh program allows agencies to turn in legacy products from Harris or other manufacturers to receive a credit on one of its newer products. The trade-in credit ranges from $200 to $700 off the configured purchase price of a new radio.

“We’ve had a phenomenal response from customers looking to take advantage of it,” said Perdieu. “I think the market has generally hit a pause button trying to understand what’s the next step and what they should be investing in from a technology perspective with the emergence of LTE. Now that the path is a little more clear, there’s been a very positive response in customers wanting to take advantage of this promotion to upgrade their communications.”

Harris’ Unity XL-200P product is the centerpiece of the refresh program because it offers broadband capabilities and a software-defined approach that allows for further configuration to meet future needs, said Perdieu. This allows agencies to protect their investment and move forward with confidence that technology won’t quickly leave them behind.

“As we develop those features and functionality that will be critical to first responders in the future, those capabilities will be developed on this platform, so it is an investment in the future,” said Perdieu. “You could buy the radio now, and whatever we invent in the future and bring to the market, this radio would support that and customers would be able to take advantage of it with software upgrades.”

JVCKENWOOD doesn’t advertise a trade-in program to customers, but it does provide trade-in or general credits on new systems. To protect new investments, North recommends working with a vendor that provides a long-term solution that is scalable without requiring the customer to add expensive proprietary hardware or change a license.

“What I think is important to end users is the answer to this question: ‘How do I get from the old to the new without interrupting our day-to-day business?’ ” said North. “That requires a solution which is not only future proof but also enables a public-safety agency or an enterprise user to migrate to new technology at a comfortable pace.”

EF Johnson Technologies recently advertised a trade-in program that offers agencies discounted pricing on Viking and TK radio bundles when they trade in a working EF Johnson ES series or other brand public-safety trunked portable or mobile radio. New radio bundles include a spare battery, a speaker microphone and a charger.

The Aftermarket
Radios that are traded in often find their way to companies such as Lakewood, Colorado-based Sunny Communications, which takes in used radios from manufacturers, dealers and end users and refurbishes them to factory specifications. The 16-year-old company carries on average about 25,000 unsupported and used two-way radios and other equipment that it sells and rents to agencies and dealers.

John Sapuppo, North American sales manager at Sunny Communications, said in many cases its products are integral to the overall upgrade cycle.

“Customers may want the latest and greatest equipment, but in reality, it takes time,” said Sapuppo. “Sometimes the newer technology cannot be integrated with the older technology so they have to find the older technology to keep it going until they can do a forklift upgrade.

“That can take years of planning, and once you award a contract, it can still take months to migrate. We get phone calls where they’ve already purchased the system but the launch is still 18 months away, and they need older equipment to keep it humming until the new system is ready to go.”

In addition to selling radios to agencies, Sunny Communications also rents equipment to agencies for short-term requirements, such as local sporting events. The company maintains a fleet of more than 3,000 Motorola Solutions MOTOTRBO radios, as well as equipment from Icom America and JVCKENWOOD to rent out.

The company also offers a refurbishment service that takes advantage of parts from its large inventory of used radios.

“Demand is significant because customers usually do not have money just sitting there,” said Sapuppo. “They are trying to make their budget stretch as long as they can and trying to keep their system going until they can overhaul the entire system with current technology.”

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