Hand-Selected Components Create Unique Radio System

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GrumpyGuard

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This sounds like a great solution to outdated radio systems. It will be interesting to see how the system play's out over the next few years, in areas such as coverage, interoperability and not to mention officer and FF safety. Richardson good luck with your new radio system that has no cost over runs and actually saved the tax payers money.
 

mmckenna

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Nice to read that.

It seems like so many agencies go directly to a single vendor with a very nebulous request for a "new radio system". So often we read about massive project overruns, poorly functioning systems, and lack of true open p25 systems.
By taking a project like this in house, including the IT department, and having staff that truly understand the technology, they've saved a lot of headaches and a lot of money. With cities and counties being so cash strapped, many have had to lay off staff that could have done a project like this. In the name of saving money, layoffs have eliminated the experienced personnel. They then turn to a single provider and basically hand over a blank check for them to do what they want with the final goals being very non-specific. The news is full of cost over runs, poorly operating systems, systems that get built but not put into use due to so many issues.

While we all assume that P25 is a standard, and it is, many manufacturers add in additional functions that are outside the standard. Technically the product meets P25, but the added on functions are not covered by the standard. Once these systems are in place, these additional functions lock the users into one manufacturer, basically negating the "open standard" idea that was originally behind P25. By letting one manufacturer come in and build the system with not enough over site by agency staff that truly understand the technology, they are putting themselves in a deep hole.

Richardson, by using their own staff, didn't fall into the trap that many system manufacturers have set. By using different brands and sticking to the standards, they'll likely be able to choose P25 products from any vendor, and truly be able to do competitive bidding for equipment.

I really wish others would learn from this. It would save us taxpayers a lot of money.
 

radioman2001

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This is what a true P-25 system entails, as it was the original intent of APCO so many years ago, and much to the dismay of Motorola who wanted their format at the time VSLEP to be the standard. Unfortunately radio vendors don't like these types of stories and systems, since they can't slip in their propriatary parts forcing customers to have to go back to them for services,upgrades,parts and equipment. This is where hiring an outside RF design company along with a good IT department or outside design vendor pays off. As everyone doesn't have the personnel as talented as Richardson has. Thank God they didn't go down the MOTOTRBO crap route.
 

jackj

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A few observations, not on venders but on the concept of 'mix 'n match'. You are correct, radioman, most venders don't like the concept but not for the reasons you state. Systems are just that, systems. Too many times in the past, the main supplier, the one who sold the base equipment, gets blamed for faults in other components. Systems also include the service or maintenance side as well. Talk to the techs who are charged with keeping the system(s) up and operating, not management. You will find that the people who actually fix the radios don't much like the 'mix 'n match' concept either.

mmckenna, having worked for Motorola for a number of years on the service side of sales, I can tell you that local & state procurement departments don't issue a "nebulous request for a "new radio system". The bid specs are, in most cases, very detailed. Those agencies own service departments will work with the committee charged with writing the bid specs very closely. Admittedly some specs are very one-sided (I remember one case where the specs stated the radios had to be painted "Motorola gray", but those cases are few and far between.

"Mix 'n match" can work and save the agency a lot of money but only if the specs are written by knowledgeable people and not loosened by politics. Specs written by communication consultants or specialists are suspect and probably will result in systems that won't work as needed.
 

mmckenna

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I hear ya, that was a very generalized observation. I just did a procurement of a trunked system and 400 radios. While we were very detailed, I've seen a few that were pretty bad, and as you say, one sided. I've also personally experienced public safety users that are so stuck on Motorola, that they refuse to consider anything else.

Having worked with a number of Motorola systems, I have developed a bias against them. Not against the equipment, the equipment is top notch, but against the sales and support tactics that Motorola tends to use. I've had more issues with the local shops too, but it's just that, a few local shops. Having more sales people than techs makes things lopsided on that side. I've had sales people show up with the techs and try and sell me new equipment rather than repairing what I called them to look at. Again, a local shop, and probably not wide spread.

My personal bias against Motorola is just that, my own personal view, and I usually try to keep it out of my posts. I've just read about enough issues with particular vendors, not just Motorola, that I tend to get my ire up about such things. Bad on my part to paint all with broad brush strokes. I certainly stand corrected.
 

mmckenna

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I guess I should add, that when we started the process of procuring a new system, the powers that be immediately asked for a P25 system. That's part of where my "nebulous" comment came from. I had to work pretty hard to get them off the P25 wagon and get a full explanation of what they were looking for. I already knew, since I run the systems, but I had to figure out why they immediately decided it had to be P25. After some questions it came down to "that's what everyone else has." Being that our fire and PD are all on VHF, just like all the public safety users in our county, I had to write up a 20 page document going through the entire process of documenting the specific needs of the users and laying out all the options. In the end, it was pretty easy to get them to see that procuring a P25 system at close to $750K was not necessary for a bunch of non public safety users. In the end it came down to a digital 800MHz system as the best solution. We looked at cost, functionality, long term operation costs, etc. MotoTrbo on Kenwood NexEdge were the two options. Motorola lost out because, at the time, they refused to allow NPSPAC frequencies to be programmed into the 800MHz Trbo line. I think they've since dropped that restriction. When we asked Motorola why they did that, their reply was "well, if you are using NPSPAC frequencies, then you should be using P25." Kenwood had no such restrictions on their radios. So, we were able to save $250K over a one site P25 system, at least.
Such tactics that attempt to push agencies into higher cost solutions really rub me the wrong way.

So, now we have a NexEdge system, as well as a single channel conventional repeater that can handle interoperability on 800. We chose a Motorola Quantar for that duty with both the conventional and P25 load to handle what we expect to be any future needs. That and a dispatch console system that will handle patching between our VHF Fire and PD as well as the NexEdge system seems to be an easy way to meet everyones needs without having to break the band on an across the board P25 system.
 

radioman2001

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jackj who wrote the specs for the system you worked on? I too have worked for Motorola, and they are the ones that usually that write the specs, fill in the blanks and make sure other manufacturers can't bid with total compliance. If the radio shop doesn't like the piece meal approach, find another shop. If for example a Motorola shop is doing the repair work, does that mean when a new series of radios comes out they don't like it because it's not what you are used to. Techs learn what ever is necessary to do the job, and if not I would find someone else. BTW Motorola doesn't make all the infrastructure for their systems, lots of manufacturers do. Motorola doesn't build the towers, or the battery and backup power supplies, the IT portion is contracted out. If we are talking actual radio infrastructure, that what handles the actual radio transmission, then a radio is a radio is a radio. Adding propriatary parts to ensure customers is not how I do business. Motorola has the old telephone company attitude, this is what it is, if you don't like too bad, well that doesn't work in today's enviroment. Motorola can be considered the GC for their larger builds, which is not much different than what Richardson did on their own, and saved themselves a ton of money (that would have gone to the vendor). Not trusting an independent consultant, that to me means I wouldn't trust the vendor who doesn't agree to it.
In the end it all comes back to proper planning, and Motorola is not always right, they eat a lot of systems too.
 

jackj

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Radioman, there is a lot of truth to what you've said. It has been a number of years since I parted ways with the Great Bat Wing but.... Salesmen are Salesman, doesn't make any difference what they're selling, and they won't tell the truth when a lie will do better. I've heard sales tell the customer, "100 ft. + 100 watts = 100 miles. Then it was up to me to explain that the salesman really didn't mean that. Promise the moon but deliver dirt is the creed of the salesman and you can't blame one company for an entire breed's failings.

Motorola doesn't make a lot of the stuff that goes into the systems they sell. This is nothing new and it doesn't mean that they are dishonest or that they don't select what they resell based on their system's needs. No manufacturer makes everything they sell. It wouldn't be economical to design and build communication consoles for maybe 20 sales a year. Motorola makes radios, not antennas or feedline or towers or ground rods or resistors or capacitors or etc. Just radios but you have to admit that they make a pretty darn good radio.

Mr. Galvin built Motorola into what it was 20 or 30 yrs ago by building the absolute best product he was able to build and then standing behind it. Unfortunlly it doesn't appear that present management with any company believes that is the way to do business today.
 

jim202

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Let's not throw all consultants under the bus. Having been there and seeing what has been done by different companies around the country, all I will say is do your homework. Require that the consultant provide you with a list of agencies that they have done similar work for. Make sure there is a good size list. Not just 2 or 3 agencies.

Call these agencies and talk with the people listed. Ask pointed questions on just how happy they were with the project managers assigned to the work. Did the contractors get all the required permits before starting the work? Ask how well did the installs go. Find out if the contractors left a mess that had to be cleaned up by the local agency. Ask how well the project stayed on the time table that was agreed upon at the start. If the people listed are no longer there, then your list information is way too old and should ring a bell.

I have seen consultants write up specs that made no sense. Some of the specs were wrote by the vendors and the consultants just polished it some. You can tell if a vendor wrote the specs with just a brief scan through it. You start to see these little phases that point to specific equipment or features only one vendor can supply. This should also ring your bell to point out that your about to be taken for a ride.

It would be wise on the agency's part to invite a number of consultants in on a meeting to go over the RFP (request for proposal) and see just what comes out of the meeting. Make each of the consultants come back with a document to see just how biased they are to any vendor. Also request a list of their past customers and do your homework on that list. What you bring back to the agencies on what you found out can mean the difference between a costly mess and a working system at a reasonable price.

What you will find out along the hard road to a successful project is that some consultants seem very biased toward a particular vendor. You need to weed those consultants out early on in your quest for a truly fair, unbiased company. You will also find that there are some consulting companies that talk a good story, but can't make it happen. Again your calling to past customers should weed those out.

A hesitation on those parties on the list you called can send up a red flag. When you ask a direct question about the consulting work and they sort of beat around the bush with an answer is another red flag.

Anyway, work hard, do the needed phone calls and emails to check out those consultants that think they may want to work with your agency. Your efforts will pay out in the long road to success.

Jim
 
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RICHARDSON, Texas — During an incident, or even during day-to-day operations, radio communication is the principal lifeline for emergency management personnel and first responders alike.

Hand-Selected Components Create Unique Radio System[/QUOTE

You have to believe that with this new Richardson system and the big ARINC/Cassidian win in Lancaster County this week, both Motorola and Harris are probably starting to think twice about the way they do business.

I will say it until I'm blue in the face. The P25 standard has created an outstanding competitive market, espcially on the subscriber side where there are nearly a half dozen models now that do everything a $5000+ Motorola or Harris radio does at half the cost or less than half. It's a beautiful thing.
 

radioman2001

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I totally agree, do your homework BEFORE the meetings, keep all vendors salesman at arms distance. If you want an honest technical answer request to speak to their technicians who have worked on similar systems, without company personel present, and ask pointed questions as to how the system was implemented and any problems that occured technically or otherwise. Tour similar systems with the owners and their technical staff, again stay away from company salemen that want to tag along. If they refuse, tell them they are out of contention. When it comes to consultants see what vendors they have used on preceding projects. Maybe one of the toughest things to do is get the local politics, namely the Chiefs of the departments out of the mix.
While Motorola may make a good product it doesn't mean that they are the only ones, and that they are perfect products with out going through some teething pains. Present Motorola management aside I am not all that impressed with their products.Technically they havn't advanced much in the last 10 years, while they have lots of bells and whistles, the radio is still a radio. What may look nice doesn't always means it will work the way you want it to and a $1K radio could do they same thing the $5k radio they are pushing does.(our policy least expensive radio to do job KISS) Harris has made military radios for eons, and I would say they are serious competition for mother M. The Japs have made good quality radios for years, just not P.S. standard ones until recently, when NYPD went Vertex, a serious blow to Motorola, and probably why they bought them.
There have been enough systems built in the last 10 years that there should be a standard play book that all agencies could tap for information as to how to proceed to build out their own system. I know no two systems are alike, but close enough that if you have hilly terrain you need this or city enviroment you need this.
Maybe what is needed is an APCO 25 standard ver 2.0 , that says all the bells and whistles are compatable with each other. More like cell phone standards, and that definitly would level the playing field.
 

R8000

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I totally agree, do your homework BEFORE the meetings, keep all vendors salesman at arms distance. If you want an honest technical answer request to speak to their technicians who have worked on similar systems, without company personel present, and ask pointed questions as to how the system was implemented and any problems that occured technically or otherwise. Tour similar systems with the owners and their technical staff, again stay away from company salemen that want to tag along. If they refuse, tell them they are out of contention. When it comes to consultants see what vendors they have used on preceding projects. Maybe one of the toughest things to do is get the local politics, namely the Chiefs of the departments out of the mix.
While Motorola may make a good product it doesn't mean that they are the only ones, and that they are perfect products with out going through some teething pains. Present Motorola management aside I am not all that impressed with their products.Technically they havn't advanced much in the last 10 years, while they have lots of bells and whistles, the radio is still a radio. What may look nice doesn't always means it will work the way you want it to and a $1K radio could do they same thing the $5k radio they are pushing does.(our policy least expensive radio to do job KISS) Harris has made military radios for eons, and I would say they are serious competition for mother M. The Japs have made good quality radios for years, just not P.S. standard ones until recently, when NYPD went Vertex, a serious blow to Motorola, and probably why they bought them.
There have been enough systems built in the last 10 years that there should be a standard play book that all agencies could tap for information as to how to proceed to build out their own system. I know no two systems are alike, but close enough that if you have hilly terrain you need this or city enviroment you need this.
Maybe what is needed is an APCO 25 standard ver 2.0 , that says all the bells and whistles are compatable with each other. More like cell phone standards, and that definitly would level the playing field.
I have read your posts and can say, I just don't agree with any your logic.

What might work in your shop and in your county and state is wonderful. But it doesn't apply everywhere. Local politics are just that...local. A county board may be happy doing things that YOU don't approve of, and the taxpayers and system users are happy with the system that YOU don't approve of. You know what ? So be it.

If your not happy with Motorola, that's fine. It's your opinion. I am allowed to have mine, and I rather like the Motorola product. You buy your other brands, I will continue to buy my Motorola's. However your painting an image of yourself here that is not good. To me, you come of as the religion person ringing my doorbell trying to force your religion down my throat.
 

radioman2001

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I don't know where you get I don't like Motorola products, our fleet at this time is 60% Moto 30% GE/Harris and 10% other. My comments whether you LIKE them or not have to do with using whats best for the conditions that you have and what suits you best. I don't car if a Woxum radio was used, as long as it does the job you require.
What I would like to see probably would be bashed by nearly everyone, but if MY tax money is being used, I damn well should be able to comment that all vendors participate if qualified, the best equipment for the least cost to do the job be used (no bells and whistles especially encryption). Plus the use of Federal monies should dictate just that. Not what Motorola would like and can possibly get away with as in LA and Washington State, by propriatary systems, false business practices and the like. In the case of LA I hope they disqualify Motorola from bidding in Cal for 5 years.
 

jim202

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I have read your posts and can say, I just don't agree with any your logic.

What might work in your shop and in your county and state is wonderful. But it doesn't apply everywhere. Local politics are just that...local. A county board may be happy doing things that YOU don't approve of, and the taxpayers and system users are happy with the system that YOU don't approve of. You know what ? So be it.

If your not happy with Motorola, that's fine. It's your opinion. I am allowed to have mine, and I rather like the Motorola product. You buy your other brands, I will continue to buy my Motorola's. However your painting an image of yourself here that is not good. To me, you come of as the religion person ringing my doorbell trying to force your religion down my throat.[/QUOTE]


In trying to stay neutral here on my comments and reading your comment, it is obvious your not up on just what the sales forces are doing these days. In one example they walk in and flat tell the customer that his current radios all need to be replaced by the first of January, 2013. They didn't tell the customer that the radios are only 2 or 3 years old and can be narrow banded. Nope, they just flat lie to the customer and make them spend a ton of money. The second ploy used is to say to even low band customers that they have to abandon those channels and go to a trunking system. Again they didn't tell the customer that the low band channels are not part of the narrow band migration.

My travels take me around the country and I do get to chat with many different public safety agencies. They are all being approached to buy new radios under false pretenses. I can't see where your comments of continuing to support these type of sales tactics is good for anyone. I for one would rather see the tax payer's money go for a fair priced radio to fit the application rather than being force fed the crap they are about they need all these fancy features.

Maybe your much better off than us common people that have to earn a living. I for one just can't stand to see my hard earned tax money flushed down the drain to a dishonest sales person and company. Don't forget that the federal grant money also came from the taxes you pay. I will stand up and be heard by some dumb agency manager that is in bed with any vendor. If the equipment isn't obtained by an open bid by multiple vendors, something is wrong. The days of sole source supply are coming to an end weather you like it or not. Most states have some sort of bid laws that these managers have skirted for years.

Like it or not times are changing. People are also going to jail more often now for the reasons above that they think don't apply to them.

Jim
 

mmckenna

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Well said Jim.

I love my Motorola products too, but I can't stand dealing with the sales guys.
The sales side of Motorola is digging themselves into a hole that is going to be very hard to get out of. I'm not the only one that dislikes the Motorola sales tactics, it's getting to be a pretty big phenomenon.

Most of the gear is pretty good, but there are a number of manufacturers that have gained a lot of ground in the last few years that are starting to give Big M a real run for their money. It's getting hard for government to justify the high price of the Motorola gear. I ended up going with Kenwood since it saved us a lot of money. Our fire department switch to all Kenwood a few years back for the same reason. After about 10 years all the Moto gear is gone and the Kenwood has taken it's place. There isn't any difference in how well it works or how long it lasts, but when it's considerably cheaper and the constant budget cuts are taking their toll, spending extra money to but the Motorola name plate isn't worth loosing staff or equipment. Motorola needs to realize this and make some changes.

I'm all for competition in the market place. Motorola is still acting like they don't have competition and that just isn't the case any more. Locking users into proprietary functions is starting to backfire.

I will say it was smart of them to buy up Vertex, however it's eliminated some of the competition, and that's not always a good thing from a customer standpoint.

You guys can argue the Motorola thing until you are blue in the face. The truth is there is a LOT of good equipment out there now, and we have our choice. The argument that Motorola is the only quality product out there just doesn't fly anymore.
 
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