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  #21 (permalink)  
Old 02-13-2013, 3:44 PM
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The best part about this is the Winchester bid out. Have been hoping to see at least Harris or EFJ build one public safety system in our area. Sad to say it looks like astro25 systems will be dominating this area of Virginia for the next ten years until they go bad. . Harris even has a corporate office of some sort right in the next county over and they couldn't even put a bid in... Washington, D.C. Public safety and the airports authority have the last of the project 16 systems "smartnet" in this region. Wonder if anyone else bid on them either. **Yup I called Smartzone project 16 prove me wrong**

Is anyone else getting into the tower business? 40,000!! Why not just use existing infrastructure as much as possible?

Any bets on completion years for this? 2023 is mine.
Those things fly together pretty quickly once the money's flowing. I'd say 2 - 3 years. Optimization is another thing. Some agencies just put it in stock and never tweak the system to their liking (or don't have time/or don't know how to without continually reaching for their wallets).

The prevailing thought in large systems construction today is to build things to a performance spec. The way a consultant explained this to me (when I flat out directed him to use existing towers in the buildout of a system my former committee and I conceptualized) is this: You present a number, like a delivered audio quality (DAQ) figure or an average coverage (95% of locations, 95% of the time) and then place the burden on the bidder to work costs and resources to meet projected performance metrics. The other face of the coin is usually that since the sites don't exist yet, they coordinate and license fictitious sites to create a peripheral signal contour around the jurisdiction. Then, you can move your sites to wherever you'd like within the area without added justification IF the interference contour of the actual sites conforms within the aggregate peripheral interference contour. His words: if you specify the sites, you accept all responsibility for the system's performance (as the designer, I went "Duhhh!" but the politicians didn't); if I throw out a number and the bidder picks the sites, then THEY take responsibility for the system's performance if it doesn't work as intended. The problem with that is a chicken-and-egg issue. You can't line up independent projects, like microwave connectivity, since you have no idea where things would go. Everything has to run concurrently and would exceed the span of control of a limited resource internal proponent (hence, more consultants... the name of the game in consulting is to create steady work for yourself and never quite finish...).

Communications is a bold new world today, much more than it was even 15 years ago. Back in the Galvin days, I looked at other stuff as junk. Now in the post-breakup era between solutions and mobility, other competitors are coming up very rapidly and have a better vision of the future. Yes, somewhere west of Chicago there is a very likely a big whiteboard with the strategy mapped out, between red systems and blue systems. There's probably a whiteboard in Virginia, too. And it's a posturing game to make sure it comes to fruition. But that leaves out the green, orange, and purple guys who at this point, really have their act together and have more cost-efficient and spectrum-efficient technologies.

I was ambushed at a conference several years ago by an aggressive salesman who tried to tell me what I needed to implement was VHF trunking because I had some VHF simulcast stuff already built out (never mind the project almost didn't go because it needed clear frequencies to work). He was bewildered when I told him I thought VHF was a mess, and that I wanted no part of it. He lost me when he told me he came to the conference across the country to meet with us and chose to miss a significant event one of his kids was having. I believe I told him we could have waited or met him on home turf and then called him an idiot for missing his kid's whatever. Oh well. They ended up building a large VHF system for someone else in the region and a 700/800 system for others, which tells me that it was choreographed well in advance. Had I known then what I know now, I would have waited a few months, put my frequencies together into pairs, and just put in a big turbo system independent of $2M controllers and monthly maintenance costs that could have been a FTE salary and be done with it.

Yeah, RonBon, it is disheartening that no one wanted to take the ball and run with it. There had to be something.

But that's all old-school now. The D-Block is a game changer, as big R&D money is going into infrastructure and subscriber devices. The original plan there was for the units to be affordable, but you know what happens when those two words: "Public Safety" are silk screened on a consumer device that has an extra gasket and a bit more plastic trim.

Sorry for my rambling rant. Obvious sore spot is obvious.
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Old 02-13-2013, 9:50 PM
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I normally try to keep my posts informational, but I will set that aside this time.

A couple of concerns I've had for several years about this nationwide public safety broadband network come to mind.
  1. People (politicians mostly) have been touting it as the "be all end all" of interoperability, yet the system will not support any kind of mission critical voice communications for many years. I guess if data interoperability is all you need and you happen to be in a major urban area, it might be useful.
  2. Due to the wide world of possible uses for this system, people have been proposing more and more users who need to be on the system, including utilities and second responders. It seems no one has taken a serious look at the capacity of the system to see whether it will be able to support all these users. Besides, the system needs to be able to immediately handle a large influx of traffic if a major incident occurs.
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Old 02-13-2013, 11:01 PM
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Good comments regarding Wyoming. Since I left home 40 years ago I've lived in one small city, two small towns (>700 people) and now a large town of 8,000 people. When I moved 70% of the population lived in metro areas. In spite of the widely reported "back to the land" movement the 2010 census showed that 85% of the population now live in metro areas.

Cell phone companies claim, especially AT & T, that they cover X% of the U.S. and those claims might be true in metro areas, but in rural areas the claims are obviously untrue. I've observed that many products and services leave rural areas behind. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find people at service and customer centers to understand your circumstances. I received one reply on the phone that if I went to my nearest Kinko's that I could send a fax and charge it to the company's account and the short term deadline I faced would be solved. When I told her my nearest Kinko's is more than 150 miles away she actually said, that is impossible and to recheck the Yellow Pages in my phone book.

You have folks in Washington D.C., that have the same perspective. They use their cellphones without difficulty everywhere they go, therefore this is true everywhere. They have never worked an emergency in an area where even VHF is working marginally using a 50 watt mobile. They haven't even heard about someone from a land management agency such as a wilderness ranger, having to leave a medical incident to climb a hill in an attempt to find a hilltop/mountaintop with a sweet spot that results in getting into a repeater where other people have to try very hard to copy your audio because of the noise. The last National Forest I worked on has 11 repeater sites on 1.9 million acres, but it still leaves some large and significant areas of both frontcountry and backcountry without coverage.

Now imagine switching to 700 or 800 MHz. The tree needle effect killed efforts of the California Department of Parks and Rec as well Caltrans (our DOT) to convert to statewide 800 MHz systems. Parks and Rec was able to find 4 VHF frequencies for 2 repeater pairs to use in the two districts in the far northwest portion of the state. Caltrans had to continue to use their VHF-Low system. In one river canyon (Smith River) Caltrans applied for 20 repeater sites for a 45 mile section of highway due to coverage problems. Of course the state never initiated this plan.

Now you have a bunch of people who have lived in metro areas all of their lives that have been desk jockeys since they started their careers making plans for "nationwide coverage." I once asked my dad, who was a talented aerospace design engineer why he didn't move in to management. He looked at me as though I should know the answer and said, "because people in management can't design, that is why they are there."
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Old 02-14-2013, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by jlanfn View Post
I normally try to keep my posts informational, but I will set that aside this time.

A couple of concerns I've had for several years about this nationwide public safety broadband network come to mind.
  1. People (politicians mostly) have been touting it as the "be all end all" of interoperability, yet the system will not support any kind of mission critical voice communications for many years. I guess if data interoperability is all you need and you happen to be in a major urban area, it might be useful.
  2. Due to the wide world of possible uses for this system, people have been proposing more and more users who need to be on the system, including utilities and second responders. It seems no one has taken a serious look at the capacity of the system to see whether it will be able to support all these users. Besides, the system needs to be able to immediately handle a large influx of traffic if a major incident occurs.
99% of interoperability is human. If two people don't believe they NEED to communicate, they won't regardless of what technological nifties exist.

In 1973, Daniel Kahneman did a seminal study on the limits of the human brain (Attention and effort a really great read, BTW). Our mind has limits and when we introduce new tasks that demand a particular level of processor power, something else gives way. This is what happens when people talk on cellphones while driving (approximating the impairment at the legal limit of intoxication) or texting while driving (which demands so much attention that it has been compared to closing your eyes and just letting the car coast on autopilot). We make tasks for dispatchers, and presume someone will sift through volumes of superfluous materials in order to find a needle of relevance in a mountain of hay. Aside from the practical bandwidth limitations (there's only so much streaming data that can flow through a given range of frequencies, even with MIMO techniques and splitting cells), I'd expect the taxpayer costs for sifting for relevance to be several times more than what it currently is. A 9-1-1 call can last 45 seconds without pre-arrival instructions, and you get a where, a what, and a who. A real-time video can appear with only the caption "This:" and someone has to sift through what might seem obvious to one person, but not to another. Some people actually think this information overload is beneficial (they haven't read Kahneman or subsequent researchers). Knowing how our minds work, we shouldn't expect people to go sifting for unidentified elements, because they work best when looking for something specific.

This contrivance might be putting the technology cart before the human horse.

Politicians think public safety is too... "needy." They won't publicly go against it, but behind closed doors, they won't fight for it, either. By giving them broadband, they fix all of the "I need more spectrum" or "this new technology [think Nextel or LightSquared] is giving me interference" problems, when the public safety element they wave the flag for competes with the revenue element that trumps it behind closed doors. It's an elegant solution that makes this stuff all "go away." It's also a commerce and investment vehicle. Can't make money if everything that needs to be sold has already been sold and there's less money in actually repairing something rather than dumping it and selling something new. So those 33 MHz Motracs that have outlasted 5 fire trucks they've been installed in have to be obsoleted. Those analog trunked systems have to be obsoleted. Those "No thanks, we're good" wideband VHF systems (very little "more channels" came from VHF narrowbanding because of the channel centers selected - UHF did end up better off) have to be obsoleted so people buy newer stuff to achieve their mission. Think about it. Just when all is good, force obsolescence or manufacture a crisis and we'll spend on it. I suppose one might consider that a "stimulus package."
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Old 07-27-2016, 1:37 AM
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Default BUMP- looks like you got your wish, zerg901!

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Perhaps it would be totally awesome to build one system that could cover all the wireless needs in the USA - government, private, federal, state, home, business, subway, military - everyone.

Instead of becoming a third world nation.
· Find every possible first responder with both handheld and vehicle-mounted devices—law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical and emergency management. This would include private ambulance and firefighting services (e.g., oil refineries and major manufacturers like Boeing), and private police and security, such as those protecting the Navy Yard in Washington D.C.

· Find and engage every possible federal responder—FBI, Secret Service, Forest Service, Park Service, Coast Guard, Border Protection and more.

· Offer special programs for volunteer agencies and users such as volunteer firefighters, search-and-rescue and others who will need lower-cost devices and rate plans.

· Identify all electric, gas and water utility crews and field users, both public and private. Such utilities are crucial to public health and safety, both to keep the energy and water flowing daily but especially after even small disasters.

· Find all transportation, transit and related users, e.g., trains, buses and light rail. Such responders are critical, whether they manage evacuations, respond to traffic crashes or protect the safety of riders on busses and trains.

· Engage other responders and government field forces, including animal control, building inspectors, parks and recreation, and others.

· Focus on the smartgrid. Increasingly electric, water and gas utilities will automate their meters and distribution systems with wireless devices, not just to manage and bill usage, but also to control the network, rapidly detect outages, and **remotely turn services off and on at individual premises**
· Embrace the “Internet of government things.” Beyond what’s listed above, there are and will be many devices owned and operated by governments which can be wirelessly enabled to improve public safety, the primary goal of FirstNet. These include video-surveillance cameras, automatic vehicle location in all vehicles, body-worn video, and even “Google glass” devices to be worn by responders.
source FirstNet
This list of potential users and uses is just a start for the FirstNet business plan.

First they said $7bil, then on Ohio's FirstNet page, FirstNet is now saying "$7 billion is just a drop in the bucket, we anticipate costs up to $41 billions" I just read on Slate they now state it will be $100.. BILLIONS

and it will be a corporation. A corporation your county sheriff, your police, your museum security guard will ALL have to answer to as their authority, and it is HQ-ed in Washington.

They will have 3d and "Google glass" type gear. The fire dept, or the local cop can and will turn off your utilities at the swipe of an app on their smart enabled gear (this is what they say, not my theory)
All private and public video surveillance cams will be on this Panoptico- er, "network"

Now, what did that OP say about "third world"? Do you mean like a banana republic? Or a Fascist regime? Because this is the very definition OF Fascism. Mussolini called it "corporatism".

If you like the "first world" idea of having your own personal vehicle's controls at the whim of some corporation who tells the police, fire and dog catcher what to do, and the entire state you live in controlled by this See All System that has access to your total digital footprint, then your wish is here!

Welcome to the NEW world. I heard the only state that hasn't signed on yet is Mississippi?
"
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is moving fast toward its goal of a dedicated nationwide public safety communications network. On May 13, the federal agency published an updated map that gives an overview of the states’ progress in preparing for the network, which is expected to launch within the next couple of years.

Every state but Mississippi has met with FirstNet for an initial consultation, and all but New Jersey and Mississippi are included in FirstNet’s data collection process. FirstNet’s current phase is to consult with the states’ governance bodies, and 12 states have completed this phase. These meetings are centered around FirstNet’s goal of awarding and approving a 25-year vendor contract for the network by this November, after having only issued the RFP in January.
"

They keep referring to this as a "first responder network". It's a Total Information Network.
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Old 07-27-2016, 2:25 AM
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@fleef: Good post. They might as well call it Skynet already. I'm not liking this thing one bit.
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Old 07-27-2016, 9:37 AM
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They keep referring to this as a "first responder network". It's a Total Information Network.
Awww, way to go Zerg90!

You left out the AI resources to process the information overload.
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Old 08-09-2016, 4:25 PM
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FirstNet Is a $47 Billion Emergency-Response Network That

FirstNet is not looking so good

"FirstNet is in such disarray that 15 years after the problem it is supposed to solve was identified, it is years from completion—and it may never get completed at all. According to the GAO, estimates of its cost range from $12 billion to $47 billion, even as advances in digital technology seem to have eliminated the need to spend any of it."

I knew there were pushes to interoperability but I'd never heard of this specific program. hard to believe this is all they have after 14 years. our gummint at work.
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Old 08-09-2016, 4:44 PM
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I'm not a big fan of FirstNet, but I've got to say that is a very poorly written article. It completely misses the point of what FirstNet is.
FirstNet is primarily a data network. When Push To Talk comes, it'll be a secondary feature. Primary use is for data communications.

Agencies don't have to buy into the system. Agencies can buy in and only use the data side of it. If/when PTT becomes available, agencies can buy into that. However, I think you'll find that most agencies will strongly prefer their own two way radio system.

There's an interesting "test" for push to talk over cellular. It's called the "Don't shoot!" test. They way you test it is to put yourself in a situation where you need to tell another officer to not shoot. Now, key up your PTT cellular device and yell "don't shoot!" in a panic. What does the other person hear? Do they hear the full "don't shoot!"? Does it get cut off and all they hear is ".shoot!" or do they not hear anything at all because the network is still setting up the talk path?

It's going to take a lot to get PTT over LTE reliable enough that officers are going to rely on it. I doubt that will happen in my lifetime.

The need for a nationwide dedicated data network is the true question. I can see the need. I can see that there are uses that we haven't even thought of yet. But I can see where it's a expensive solution for very rural areas.

What's going to make it work/doable is if the cellular carriers get the contract that they build this in on top of their existing network. That's achievable and it's pretty straightforward. Where the issues lie is controlling the system, data backhaul from the sites, reliability, and getting enough users.
Keep in mind that last I heard the cellular carriers could utilize the unused FirstNet bandwidth for consumer/industrial use. That's where they'll make their money. That'll be what pushes this.

Agency (or multi-agency) owned two way radio systems are not going away any time soon. No need to sell your scanner.
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Old 08-09-2016, 7:01 PM
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Most of these so called nation wide or area wide interop networks are more or less wishful thinking/idealism and have the potential to waste a lot of money

A great example of that is here in NY about 10 or so years back they proposed the "Statewide wireless network" which was suppose to be a 800mhz trunk system that had sites at basically every train depot, etc
What it became now is a bunch of cancelled FCC licenses

When it comes down to it we basically already have somewhat a nation wide interop system plan
Almost every municipality has 800mhz(or more recently 700mhz)capability - just keep the national interop frequencies in the radios and there you have it

That being said its also important with situations like this to keep in mind that different bands work better or worse in different areas/terrain

As far as a nationwide cell/data system for first responders - not the worst idea in the world but i would say they should focus more so on the data part - voice usage would be skeptical...

Last edited by Darkstar350; 08-09-2016 at 7:10 PM..
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Old 08-09-2016, 8:52 PM
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Most of these so called nation wide or area wide interop networks are more or less wishful thinking/idealism and have the potential to waste a lot of money

A great example of that is here in NY about 10 or so years back they proposed the "Statewide wireless network" which was suppose to be a 800mhz trunk system that had sites at basically every train depot, etc
.
Ha Ha Suffolk had a tg for that SWN and I saw a hit in proscan like 6 months ago...
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Old 08-10-2016, 10:00 AM
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I think that the people who envision multi-state linked trunked networks have a vision in their head of being able to pick up their radio in one state and switch to another talkgroup or type in an access code and be able to talk to and listen to the highway patrol in another state on the network.

You know, like what amateur radio operators can do via Echolink.

The problem is that the complexity and bandwidth requirements for a larger, more comprehensively interlinked network start to approach insanity very quickly. And for all that, there is very little need for it.

Another obstacle is system security. Every system is unique, they all have access control systems as part of them, who's going to manage all that data and ensure that the access keys (ASK, system key, whatever...) to all the right people for the authorized radios to be programmed, and also be sure that those keys won't get into the wrong hands?

My suggestion would be to go back to the Echolink concept. Apply that concept to the conventional interoperability channels. That way, if there is a need for one user in another state to speak to a dispatcher in another state, it could be accomplished without having to deal with the trunked system at all.
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Old 08-10-2016, 11:04 AM
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I think that the people who envision multi-state linked trunked networks have a vision in their head of being able to pick up their radio in one state and switch to another talkgroup or type in an access code and be able to talk to and listen to the highway patrol in another state on the network.

You know, like what amateur radio operators can do via Echolink.

The problem is that the complexity and bandwidth requirements for a larger, more comprehensively interlinked network start to approach insanity very quickly. And for all that, there is very little need for it.

Another obstacle is system security. Every system is unique, they all have access control systems as part of them, who's going to manage all that data and ensure that the access keys (ASK, system key, whatever...) to all the right people for the authorized radios to be programmed, and also be sure that those keys won't get into the wrong hands?
and all that is a non-issue on an LTE network. Provided the backhaul is sound, bandwidth issues are manageable, security is built-in by nature, and fleeptmapping and other hassles of LMR become history.

EchoLink can run on LTE all day long and is relatively lightweight as far as bandwidth an overhead. Need I say more?

But that doesn't mean it can become reality for us until LTE is everywhere and the cost of last mile delivery is drastically lowered to make it follow the "10 x" rule, that is, being 10 times better than what it strives to replace (in this case LMR), and 10 times cheaper.
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Old 08-10-2016, 11:50 AM
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About the only big issue I see is the ease of interfering or blocking the Band 14 signals. It's pretty easy to buy jammers from overseas. Flea power LTE handsets won't stand a chance against these units. While LMR can be impacted by this, higher power makes it a little harder to do.

But, I think a lot of people are focusing too much on the voice side of things. FirstNet is predominately being designed as a data system. PTT audio is secondary.

Ideally, the handsets will be built to use any available cellular service when needed, probably without the priority that FirstNet will have.

I don't see FirstNet replacing dedicated two way voice radio systems any time soon.
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Old 08-10-2016, 3:25 PM
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NPSTC's response:

http://www.npstc.org/download.jsp?ta...nal_160810.pdf
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Old 08-10-2016, 3:32 PM
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One might argue that it was more of a lack of unified command, but, I digress...
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Old 08-12-2016, 9:22 AM
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I agree with 902. These big system approaches are attempts to apply technological solutions to behavioral problems.

Nobody has ever come up with a satisfactory answer to why any public safety official needs to speak immediately by radio to another one across the state or in another state, especially interservice.
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Old 09-08-2016, 5:24 PM
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Well written article, but it truly misses the point.

Here in central Wyoming, it is VAST. I mean HUGE. Many thousands and thousands of square miles with absolutely ZERO infrastructure in place. No electricity, no water, no solar, no ANYTHING.

They gov't is telling me that they want to cover the entire U.S. with a seamless coverage of 700mhz signals? All for 7 billion? Absolutely never going to happen.

While 700mhz works great in densely populated areas, out here, the foliage absorption is off the charts. Every single valley (and there are thousands and thousands of them here) would need it's own dedicated tower with it's own power source.

Heck, cell companies have spent several billion in this state alone and they STILL only have about 50% coverage.

Sorry, but for the allotted budget, this is a pipe dream by people who have never been in the flyover states.

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