The following is an excerpt from the minutes of the last radio committee meeting back in early December.
7. PA-STARNet P25 Upgrade Proposals
In a closed commonwealth-only session, Robert Barnham, Chief, Radio Applications and Networks, STARNet Division, outlined the background,
technical tradeoffs, process, and status of the transition of PA-STARNet from Harris Corporation’s OpenSkyŽ technology to the APCO P25 standard.
In October, both Harris Corporation and Motorola delivered proposals for the transition in response to the department’s Request for Quotation
(RFQ). PSP has been analyzing and evaluating the proposals. The two vendors will offer briefings explaining their proposals to the Public Safety
Communications Council and an executive-level audience of agency managers on Friday, December 6.
Mr. Barnham assured the audience that any firm decision to migrate to the P25 technology will be carried out during a transition period with
both OpenSkyŽ and P25 running in parallel. He drew an analogy with Sprint’s phasing out the iDEN technology after acquiring Nextel.
Lt. Manetta commented that OpenSky’s limitation of radio personalities to 16 talk groups in 16 profiles has caused problems for PSP in
accommodating the many law enforcement agencies and 911 centers with which it communicates.
Jeffrey Toth of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) observed that users typically have a difficult time remembering how to
navigate from one talk group profile to another.
David Forster of the STARNet Division, PSP, acknowledging the intention to purchase P25-standard radios competitively, asked about the impact of
the use of radios from multiple vendors on over-the-air programming. Mr. Barnham stated that RFQ requirements included demonstrating the ability
to work with radios from other vendors.
Mr. Kosalko asked if there were plans for a radio laboratory to demonstrate and experiment with P25 radios. Mr. Barnham responded that PSP will
have OpenSkyŽ, P25 Phase 1, and P25 Phase 2 equipment set up for that purpose.
Jesse Geiman of the Department of Corrections expressed the concern that competitive procurement of P25 subscriber equipment could lead to mixing
of incompatible features and functions with radios from different vendors on the network. He also said that buying radios through a competitive
procurement process can result in low-quality equipment being offered to agencies. Mr. Kuller assured the group that PSP will protect the user
community by setting and enforcing equipment acceptance standards.
Jim Kleeman of DCNR asked about what happens to agencies that prefer to continue using OpenSkyŽ. Mr. Kuller said that PSP will work with
agencies that have specific requirements.
Kevin Campbell of PEMA asked about support for P25 Inter-Subsystem Interface (ISSI), an open standard interface allowing interconnection of
radio systems that use different technologies. Mr. Barnham answered that the P25 technology proposed by both Harris Corporation and Motorola
includes ISSI support.Mr. Kosalko asked about support for cross-band scanning, and Mr. Barnham responded that cross-band scanning is supported
with multiband radios.After Mr. Barnham stated that vendors are required to guarantee a specified level of mobile radio coverage, Mr. Toth asked
whether portable radio coverage might be less than the OpenSkyŽ P7200 radios offer now. Mr. Barnham replied that direct portable radio coverage
could be reduced with a P25 system, but a vehicular repeater will be available, compatible with the P7200 radios. The mobile repeater is similar
in design to the OpenSkyŽ Vehicular Tactical Network (V-TAC). Existing in-building coverage will be maintained, for instance, in casinos and
around the Capitol Complex in Harrisburg.
Mr. Kuller said the STARNet Division would request further analysis of portable radio coverage with P25 by the two vendors. Mr. Barnham added
that the P25 RFQ does require vendors to provide predicted portable radio coverage. Mr. Kosalko said that OAG has been happy with its P7200
radios, and that he shares Mr. Toth’s concerns. On behalf of his agency, Steven Shaver of PEMA agreed with Mr. Kosalko’s comments.
Mr. Kosalko inquired about the availability of encrypted voice communications with P25. Mr. Barnham said that fixed, rolling-key encryption is
available, and its use is an agency decision.
Mr. Kosalko asked whether FirstEnergy Corporation, a PA-STARNet business partner, is expected to continue using the statewide system if it moves
from OpenSkyŽ to P25. Mr. Barnham explained the importance of the partnership with FirstEnergy, which contributed 44 Specialized Mobile Radio
(SMR) channels under a waiver issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow their use in a public safety radio system. In
addition, West Penn Power, recently acquired by FirstEnergy, holds valuable licenses to a number of VHF channels. Mr. Barnham is drafting a
letter to FirstEnergy explaining PSP’s direction with PA-STARNet to help them make informed decisions about their participation.
Mr. Toth asked about the future of the 700 MHz air-to-ground overlay network for aviation communications. Mr. Barnham stated that the P25
proposals from both vendors include recommendations to leave the air-to-ground network intact, integrating with other subsystems using ISSI if
necessary. Mr. Barnham also remarked that the FCC requires the state to file a report on use of its 700 MHz spectrum for assessment against its
standards for primary use. Aviation is not considered a primary use.
Mr. Kuller closed the discussion of P25 transition with comments on agency subscriber equipment purchase. The commonwealth faces procurements
totaling roughly $40 million, whether it replaces existing its aging inventory of OpenSkyŽ radios with current-generation OpenSkyŽ radios, or
instead purchases new P25 equipment as PSP has proposed and as it is now exploring through analysis and discussion of the vendor proposals.
Mr. Kosalko asked whether continuing to use the P7200 portable radios as they near the end of their life cycle would still be possible in the
event that the commonwealth adopts Motorola’s P25 technology. Mr. Barnham responded affirmatively, and commented that being able to continue
using the existing inventory of P7200 radios with the new P25 technology is advantageous to the commonwealth.
Mr. Kuller speculated that if there is a decision to adopt P25, the OpenSkyŽ system would operate for at least two or three years after the
introduction of P25 technology.
The entire minutes can be found here...
Interesting, you can read between the lines and see the openscam fanboys. Discouraging to see that they are asking about encryption, I was hoping maybe to hear PSP comms once again, but alas looks grim.