Missouri Makes Interoperability Top Priority Through Grant Process (1/18/11)
Tuesday, January 18, 2011 | Comments

By Sandra Wendelken
As part of the work to build a new statewide public-safety network in Missouri, local and state officials helped develop a state-run grant process for interoperable communications. Local agencies that are willing to contribute licensed frequencies to the statewide system can get federal interoperability grant money to increase or establish access to the system, said Steve Devine, interoperability program manager for the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

The Missouri Statewide Interoperable Network (MOSWIN) VHF high band Project 25 (P25) trunked statewide radio network is under way  with two primary goals. The network is intended to meet the internal communications needs of a number of state agencies, and the system will provide Missouri’s municipal, county, state and federal first-responder community with a statewide communications platform to enhance interoperability.

The local grant applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and are specific to each agency’s requested interoperable needs. The grants include a number of funding sources available from the federal government and administered by the state of Missouri. “For example, a local agency could receive money to upgrade its conventional P25 radios to trunked capability so they can increase their interoperable quotient and operate on MOSWIN,” Devine said.

The five-phase network is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2012. The pilot phase of the network is being developed at two sites in southeast Missouri and can demonstrate state, county and local interoperability upon completion in February.

Missouri defined interoperability as the ability to access the statewide MOSWIN network, not requiring the ability for local agencies to operate on the system all the time. Therefore, local agencies can access the MOSWIN system incrementally and use the statewide network for interoperability purposes, while retaining their own systems for operability, Devine said.

For example, each of Missouri’s 206 public-safety answering points (PSAPs) will have a control station in their facilities that can access statewide and regional interoperable talk groups. These dispatch facilities will be able to access the statewide network and the agencies they dispatch for, allowing the agencies they dispatch for to also access the system. Local agencies can purchase their own subscribers and join the system at no charge and without an ongoing charge for access to the system. Agencies are responsible for the purchase and upkeep of their own subscriber units.

The network is priced at $81.7 million and is funded by the state of Missouri other than about $17 million in Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) grant money. Ongoing maintenance costs for the system are also funded by the state of Missouri. The Missouri Department of Public Safety continues to work with the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to bring federal users onto the network and discuss opportunities to share federal VHF spectrum in the system buildout as well.

Motorola is the supplier for the network, which comprises 71 independent transceiver site locations with five channels per site with 95 percent mobile coverage in each of Missouri's 114 counties plus the independent city of St. Louis with a desired audio quality (DAQ) of 3.4. In addition, the network will include access for state users to interface and access 700/800 MHz trunked systems in the Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis areas by using multiband mobile and portable radios. The introduction of multiband radios solves a long-standing issue of state users being able to communicate with agencies and users in Missouri’s urban areas, Devine said.

Missouri officials are looking at other states where several vendors supply subscriber units to the state network once the units are tested and pass state and federal Compliance Assessment Program (CAP) requirements, Devine said. “We want to leverage P25 and the benefits in subscriber costs the standard brings to local users desiring to access the system,” he said.

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