Amelia County: New 700MHz Trunking System

TJX400

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This may be old news; but looks like the murmurings that Amelia County is upgrading their system are true...

May 2021 "Radio System Assessment Report": https://www.ameliacova.com/DocumentCenter/View/345/CIP-2024

December 2021 "P25 700MHz Radio System RFP": https://mvendor.cgieva.com/Vendor/p...Hz+Radio+System.pdf&connect=jdbc/VSSINFO_PROD

November 2022 Amelia Monitor Article: Emergency management director tells of new radio system at ALF event - The Amelia Bulletin Monitor

It also appears some sort of update on the proposed radio system was set to be discussed during the November 2022 board of supervisors meeting, but I've been unsuccessful in my attempts to find the actual minutes for this specific meeting instead of the agenda only...
https://www.ameliacova.com/DocumentCenter/View/750/November-BoS-Agendapdf

If anyone's able to find if/who's been selected during the RFP process (if it's not still ongoing) - I've been unable to turn anything up thus far. Given the circumstances, I'm betting L3Harris takes the cake, I'd be shocked if anyone else won the bid. Harris' tri-bands would be ideal for Amelia, but I don't foresee them forking out that kind of money - especially given the fact that most mutual aid scenarios are outside agencies responding into Amelia, but I guess we'll see.
 

TJX400

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Okay, well, surprisingly - I stand corrected. I was able to cipher through Amelia's very organized YouTube channel to find this video.
Starting at around the 53:45 marker of the stream, the Emergency Management committee is invited to speak.

The representative from the company that's working with Amelia on their system requirements, proposals, etc, "CTA" gives a presentation to the board.

I watched the entirety of the presentation (most things on the PowerPoint were pixelated due to the low stream quality), and I took away a few key points...

Amelia received 3 proposals from various vendors for their new system.
  1. Communications International (appear to be a dealer of Tait/Harris equipment)
  2. L3 Harris
  3. Motorola Solutions
The initial request for proposal published by Amelia County required the following:
  • The proposed system to have a 4 "site" simulcast cell (utilizing 3 existing towers from the 2 legacy systems)
  • The proposed system will have 4 frequencies
  • Project 25 standard
  • P25 Phase II capable
  • 700MHz
  • 95% Portable outdoor coverage
  • (earlier documents indicate a requirement for the new system to be patchable to the legacy paging freq. and SO freq.)
At this BOS meeting, CTA provided the results of the RFP, and basic details of the proposals designed by each vendor.

Communications International proposed the following:
  • Project 25 Standard
  • Phase II
  • Simulcast
  • A 5 "site" simulcast cell (note the RFP was for a 4 site simulcast cell)
  • 700MHz
  • Estimated cost of $6,988,000
  • Met requirements for coverage
L3 Harris proposed the following:
  • Project 25 Standard
  • Phase II
  • Simulcast
  • A 4 "site" simulcast cell
  • 700MHz
  • Estimated cost of $6,600,000
  • Met requirements for coverage
Motorola Solutions proposed the following:
  • Project 25 Standard
  • Phase II
  • Simulcast
  • A 4 "site" simulcast cell
  • 700MHz
  • Estimated cost of $6,373,000
  • Met requirements for coverage
Given this information, each system that was proposed truly did meet their requirements, and to no surprise (in my opinion) the cost was the biggest driver of the recommendation from CTA. CTA ultimately recommended to the BOS that they issue a notice of intent to award Motorola Solutions, Inc for their new public safety radio system, to which the board voted in support.

She went on to say that Motorola will be providing "dual band" radios to all public safety users. She did not clarify what she meant by dual band. It is most definitely not APX7000s/7500s, because they're end of life. I can only assume she's either meaning 8000/8500s with only 2 bands enabled, or she's referring to 7/800MHz as dual band to make it seem like a better deal. I'm sure deep down in the documents somewhere - the fact that Henrico/Richmond/Chesterfield are still operating on a legacy Type II system boosted Motorola's points.

While this upgrade will no doubt drastically improve coverage county-wide, I am concerned about their implementation of TDMA. If engineered properly, it shouldn't cause too many issues, but TDMA propagates noticeably less than FDMA, and on a 4 site cell (with the majority of towers already existing from the legacy system), I would be concerned that in heavily wooded areas or inside a larger structure, this could cause issues.

The presentation ended with an "up and operational" (didn't specify if that was system actually online, cutover date, or final acceptance) date of "4th quarter of 2024" if the contract is negotiated by the first of the year. I would be surprised if that happens, but anything is possible. Hopefully with the BOS meeting scheduled for 01/18/2023, we'll get some sort of update on said negotiations.
 
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BoxAlarm187

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What's curious about this is the county's (and/or consultants) apparent reluctance to create a regional system with Powhatan, since the Powhatan folks built their core to accept adjacent agencies to come on board as well.
 

TJX400

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What's curious about this is the county's (and/or consultants) apparent reluctance to create a regional system with Powhatan, since the Powhatan folks built their core to accept adjacent agencies to come on board as well.
I agree. The earliest system assessment I could find was developed when Powhatan was still building their system out (believe it was May/June 2021). At that time, the system assessment states that Powhatan was seriously considering using the Harris proprietary TDMA control channel. They’ve used that as a reason to implement their own independent system since then, even with Powhatan utilizing a FDMA control channel and mostly FDMA talkgroups. Their reason being, they’d have to purchase Harris manufactured infrastructure and subscribers. Initially it seems they had been considering having one vendor build/install the required infrastructure, and then purchase subscribers from another vendor in order to save money since P25 is a standard. Obviously that hasn’t come to fruition, and Motorola is doing the whole thing.
 

CurtisPayne145

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Amelia should honestly just join Powhatan radio system as it’s already built and the only thing they would need to change is the voice mode from A to D and bam DONE, no need to spend almost $10 million dollars when there’s an option available and cheaper if I missed some points feel free to add to it
 
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BoxAlarm187

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Amelia should honestly just join Powhatan radio system as it’s already built and the only thing they would need to change is the voice mode from A to D and bam DONE, no need to spend almost $10 million dollars when there’s an option available and cheaper if I missed some points feel free to add to it

Amelia would still need to build at least 3 towers, as the Powhatan system wouldn't provide coverage throughout Amelia County.
 

CurtisPayne145

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that's not bad, 3 towers ain't bad, just make sure that once they're up, the radios are tested to ensure it's fully operational, what's Amelia's budget?
 

maus92

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I’m surprised in that L3/Harris has a “One Virginia” policy to capture all county radio refresh projects in the state, lol. I would have thought they would be willing to take a haircut to win the bid.

I would be suspicious of a local radio dealer to have the technical expertise to engineer a simulcast system- they just don’t have the expertise that the big players have accumulated.
 

BoxAlarm187

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I would be suspicious of a local radio dealer to have the technical expertise to engineer a simulcast system- they just don’t have the expertise that the big players have accumulated.
With L3Harris based in Virginia, technical expertise and system design is just around the corner. The Harris users I've talked with over the past couple of years appear to be very pleased with the outcome and coverage of their systems.
 

jeepsandradios

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I didn't see a local radio shop design or propose a new system for this. Communications International is a Florida based company installing stuff for Tait. I would assume Tait put the proposal together for them. When ICOM came back in the public safety picture a shop I worked for did similar for ICOM. I've never understood the idea.

As a user on a Harris system I can say the end user doesn't know what the infrastructure is. Its the subscriber 90% of the time thats the good or bad of a system.
 

TJX400

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In the past I thought agencies chose Harris only because of their bid being lower, but I've been increasingly impressed with all of their products since I've put my hands on them. I was shocked to see that Harris' bid was higher than Motorola's. As BoxAlarm said above, the users of their newer local systems seem to be pleased. I'd always heard bad things about Harris, but recently I haven't seen much substantiating evidence to support that kind of claim.
 

maus92

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I didn't see a local radio shop design or propose a new system for this. Communications International is a Florida based company installing stuff for Tait. I would assume Tait put the proposal together for them. When ICOM came back in the public safety picture a shop I worked for did similar for ICOM. I've never understood the idea.

As a user on a Harris system I can say the end user doesn't know what the infrastructure is. Its the subscriber 90% of the time thats the good or bad of a system.
Except when they get bonked at a house fire. Worcester County in Maryland has racked up a litany of complaints about their Harris P25 system from end users. The county's radio shop designed the system themselves and a local-ish vendor installed it. Even though the design doubled the number of sites, end users are used to the performance of their cell phones and expect the same performance from the LMR system. Therefore, jurisdictions should employ qualified and experienced radio consultants to design RFPs and evaluate proposals from vendors. Meanwhile on the advice of a consultant, officials in Worcester hope that exchanging 800 MHz frequencies will cure their deficiencies, as the current theory is tropo ducting during summer evenings is the root cause of the mediocre performance of the system. The next step would be increasing site density - not cheap.
 

jeepsandradios

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Sorry I was talking about a similarly designed system with the proper coverage. I agree a "low bid" special is not the best and will have issues. I have seen it over time.
 

X9009X

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I’m surprised in that L3/Harris has a “One Virginia” policy to capture all county radio refresh projects in the state, lol. I would have thought they would be willing to take a haircut to win the bid.

I would be suspicious of a local radio dealer to have the technical expertise to engineer a simulcast system- they just don’t have the expertise that the big players have accumulated.
Your statement is totally offline. All L3HARRIS dealers are highly qualified to design, build, and maintain any P25 system. C I is a very good organization with many skilled and qualified engineers and techs.

Unlike Moto solutions who hold everything close to the vest, and believe me the County will probably get hit with multiple change orders bringing the price up to or higher than either C I or L3.
 

maus92

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The above is the typical response we hear from the local vendors who are assigned a sales territory. I've seen them bid on radio projects, and many cannot even qualify based on their deficient response to an RFP. Some may be excellent, but many have no business building a sophisticated public safety grade radio system as they just don't have the experience and expertise. The bottom line is to hire an experienced (and diligent) radio consultancy to manage the RFP process and participate in contracting, refining the design and construction of the system - and hold the winning bidder accountable to the specifications that they are contractually obligated to perform.
 
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