Next-Generation Public Safety Communications

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mmckenna

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Good stuff, as I'd expect from them.
The issue that I see, at least locally, is that there are a lot of locations in my county that have zero cell phone coverage. So relying on public carriers to build out coverage in the rural areas is going to be an issue. As it is, we have 22 sites to cover a small county. Those 22 sites use VHF, which works much better out in the mountains and trees. 700MHz is going to perform a lot worse than VHF in that environment, and likely need more than the 22 sites the county currently needs. Not sure who is going to cover the cost of the build out. This is the same reason my county, and all public safety agencies in it, stick with VHF analog. No plans to change that as the costs would be astronomical, especially if they wanted to go to 700MHz.

Other issue, plain old LMR radio is going to be around for a long time. It's cheap, simple and works well. Going from a platform that has an on/off-volume knob and a PTT button to something like a smart phone is going to have it's issue.

This technology is certainly needed, there are just some issues that are going to need to be resolved. I haven't seen anyone come up with that solution yet. I think as long as I'm around, LMR is always going to be out in the field. I think it's going to be a long time before we see police and fire ditch their radios in exchange for something like a souped up smart phone.
 

MTS2000des

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cellular technology doesn't cut it for public safety voice dispatch.
it's too expensive to do it on your own.
it's too expensive to use someone else's network, and when you do, you're just another customer.

The USA has too diverse a land layout and geographic spread for one RF band (especially 700MHz) to have the bandwidth and propagation to work.
 

N2MWE

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I always wondered whatever happened to the KISS principle. Cops on the street don't really need whiz bang check it out portable radios...a simple transceiver is just fine. I also have a small issue with CAD...you have to take your eyes away even for a minute when you're putting in a license plate or a client ID.
 

mm

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Your correct,

Kiss was lost a long time ago, anymore it seems to be that KISS mean to Kiss the govt's A$$ and sit back and shut up.

That's what the govt. thinks about us and our tax dollars, their like a bunch of A.D.D kids jumping from one technology to another just because some industry lobbyist shells out millions of dollars to both useless govt. parties.

Cops don't need all this 4G junk but the radio vendors need the money and P25 is mature now so what else can they do but lobby the FCC and the crazy Govt. for new technology to raise their sales and 4G(LTE) public safety is the new buzz word.

I can just see it now, the local beat cop surfing Girls Gone Wild with his portable unit while the local bank right in front of him is being robbed.


OK sorry of my rant now,

I'm just sick of my tax dollars going for crappy sounding systems that start out at 10 million and end up at 60 to 100 million dollars a few years later and and still don't work.

Then the feds come along and say vacate the frequencies in a few years and migrate to the newest piece of crap system that won't work either, and it starts all over again, I'm sure that in 5 or 10 years it will be 5G and then 6G ....


Mike
 

DickH

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How about Public Safety using a satellite? That would mean NO TOWERS and perhaps 100% coverage. Wouldn't that kick the hell out of the radio manufacturers.:)
 

K6CDO

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How about Public Safety using a satellite? That would mean NO TOWERS and perhaps 100% coverage. Wouldn't that kick the hell out of the radio manufacturers.:)
As long as you are outside, and not parked under trees, and your antenna can see the part of the sky the satellite is in, it's ok - as long as there isn't more than a half-dozen of you on the talk path, and you can get used to the 1/4 to 1/2 second delay in the transmission. ...
 

jim202

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The big issue here is that there is no one with enough weight behind a project like this that really understands the issues. Unless you have been involved with public safety communications for many years, there is no way that you can understand just what goes on. The next problem is understanding just what is needed to make public safety communications work and provide the coverages that is needed. Capacity is always a problem, but it can be easily be provided for once you understand the coverage requirements.

Now and I have to stress this issue, you don't want a radio vendor designing your radio system. You really need to have an outside, no interest in your system, engineer working for the public safety agency doing the specs for the system. At this point you need to dig your heals in and pick which "It would be nice to have features" that will make the system fit the user requirements. This is to prevent the vendor throwing in all the high cost features that you will never need or hardly ever use.

It was mentioned that using satellite services would solve your problems out in the real rural areas where there is no cellular coverage. Sure this can be used, but it has one major limitation. What happens when you have a major incident hit the country. I am not talking about a certain area of the country here. It means anyplace in the country that the satellite provides coverage for.

What I am getting at is the satellite only has so much capacity. Lets take a look at when hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans and western Mississippi region. I was there with a number of satellite phones. By the Monday after the storm, you couldn't make a call during the day if your life depended on it. There were just too many satellite phones that were all trying to use the system at once. If you were in Montana trying to use you satellite phone, it wouldn't make a call. All the system capacity was being used. Just like a trunking system, when too many users are on it at once, you will eventually get a system busy for any transmission you try to make. Problem is with a satellite phone system, the busy issue effects anyone in the footprint of the satellite. Do you really want to put you people in the field with this limitation?

Now lets talk about the cellular carriers and trying to depend on them to provide a system that you going to bet your public safety people out in the field on. These carriers build their cell sites with one thought in mind. That is making money on the site investment. So the sites are built with the channel loading that is dependent on just how many users on the average will use the capacity of each of the cell sites.

Capacity channel use of the cell sites by the carriers is dependent on the external activity by their paying customers. On the average everyone is happy. Now lets put an ice storm going through the area. What happens to the traffic on the sites, it goes way up. Now lets have a major accident on the Interstate out in the boonies. Everyone on the Interstate is calling home telling their family the road is shut down and they will be late. Those involved in the incident are trying to call 911 and yelling for help. Here comes the big event, now the public safety users are trying to respond and talk to their dispatcher along with trying to get reports from on location. Who is going to win in this high use episode? Probably no one.

Lets throw another monkey wrench into the mix already mentioned. The ice storm has taken down a number of trees and that in turn has brought down the power feeding the cell sites trying to handle all the overload traffic from the accident. Well guess what people, not all cell sites have emergency generators. They have batteries, but these won't last long with the extreme volume of traffic. So in about maybe an hour at the outside the cell site goes dead.

You say well why isn't an LTE system in place. Well guess what, many of the LTE systems being proposed are trying to rely on the cellular carriers to provide the RF portion of the system. If the cell site doesn't have a generator and if the channel capacity is limited, what are you left with? Oh by the way, you need to provide some sort of back haul for the data to get back to the cell switch that makes everything work. Most of the time these cable T1 circuits are above ground. Well if the trees are coming down, they take what ever cables are in the way. Now your left with no connection between the cell sites and the switch office.

Is this any way to run a public safety radio system? Is this they way you want your public safety radio system working that you rely on for obtaining emergency fire and ambulance response using? Is this the best radio communications that the law enforcement users need to communicate with? Well maybe you should think long and hard about just what direction you would like to see activity in the future.

You ask how I know about all the above. Well I built and serviced cellular systems for about 18 years with a number of different cellular carriers. Have been involved in public safety radio systems for some 45 plus years. Been in bad snow storms, ice storms and a number of hurricanes. There isn't much that I haven't been involved with in trying to maintain different forms of communication systems.

Plant your feet and get these government people to understand the problems that face the design and support of communication systems. If you know anything about these systems, get involved. Let the decision makers understand what they are trying to do with engineering support. Don't let them get wined and dined by the radio vendors and have a snow job done on them for what their needs are. This is your and my tax money going into the pockets of the sales force.
 
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radioman2001

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Whats going on now is no different than 40 years ago when LEAA was handing out grants and FREE radios and systems to get everybody on VHF under the guise of interoperability. Then 30 years ago it was 800 mhz, 20 years ago it was trunking, now P-25 and 700 mhz. As a result of all this selling is we now have a mix of non-interoperable systems.
LTE will never work for P.S. at least not for dispatch, maybe if you want to run a plate or file check it would be OK. Look to the other side of the pond and all the problems the U.K. and the rest of the E.U. that drank the cellphone style dispatch systems kool aid. There was even some official e-mails that got released telling the officers to stop talking on the radios/phones, because it was costing the government too much in fees.
The only technology that I like is the multi-band radios of late. You can have 700/800 in the large cities, UHF in the smaller ones, and VHF in the boonies. If those became a standard we wouldn't need all these systems (LTE and the like) with all the bells and whistles that no one is going to use. Prices would fall as more manufacturers made the multi-band radios, and you could have a seamless system, but who to pay for it?
I may be denegraded for it, but my opinion is to eliminate local policing. You are seeing a consolidation of forces today as a result of the bad economy, there is no reason for a jurisdiction to have 4 and 5 Police agencies covering them. What the U.S. needs is Federal Police system like other countries around the world, then a Federal radio system that is paid for by Federal taxes (WOW what a concept, get rid of all the little fifedoms). I don't see it happening anytime soon, but it will eventually go that way, and that would take care of the radios since it would be one agency nationwide. The Feds would build it, possibly take more TV bandwidth (like we need 30 TV stations carrying Leave it to Beaver) Stick to KISS, and just build one hell of a trunked style system nationwide.
 
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902

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There have been dozens of salient points here from people who DO "get it." Let me toss one additional thing out there: connectivity. LTE systems are throughput and survivability limited by whichever means links them. Microwave is expected to be inadequate to be handling the dreamware that the talking heads are touting. Our national policy makers are unwilling to invest in capital public works projects to lay fiber anywhere, let alone rural areas. The build-out costs are underestimated because they presume the network would be largely plug-and-play (a common IT view), when, in fact, the areas where these systems need to be constructed is exactly where market forces HAVE NOT deployed fiber, and WILL NOT, so long as an ROI model is used to justify build-out. If there is something built out, it will likely look like a tree full of strings as opposed to the robust, survivable network Ma Bell built faced with the Red menace. I sincerely doubt there will be capitalization to the point where we have >= 10 Gbps loop-diverse connectivity for the degree of resilience that public safety use would require.

In terms of LMR not "going away," it's true it has plenty of life and functionality to offer. Certainly it presents an infrastructure-independent means of communication. Infrastructure is the first thing to go down the toilet when someone pulls the disaster handle. Let me posit two points: 1) LTE carriers do not want off-network communication of any sort because they cannot bill for it; and 2) there is strong lobby before legislators that wants virtually every radio frequency harvested for auction, and in the Washington world, public safety is always a photo opportunity for the public face, but behind closed doors, everything is on the table, including (as was in the King bill) nearly all of UHF, including amateur spectrum. It seems every couple of weeks some Washington genius comes up with someone to take resources away from.

In the end, the first two lines from Meatloaf's Two out of Three Ain't Bad apply.
 

byndhlptom

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Next Gen Radio

ref radioman2001

I have serious reservations about a "Federal" police system.

How will such a system be accountable back to the local level (where it needs to be). I know of no federal department/organization that has ever had local accountability or focus. I don't think it will ever come to pass. Most of the successful federal or national systems that work are in relatively small countries where they can be viewed as "local". We have counties in this country that are bigger than many international countries.

We need more local involvement, not less. The closer the Law Enforcement agency is to the community, the more effective it is. Been proven time and again, an "outside" agency is always less effective and supported and trust me, a Federal police will be looked at as an outside agency.

Consolidation has it's place, but like radio systems, it is not an universal solution. For every success, I could find a unsuccessful effort. The pros/cons of every option need to be explored for each situation.

History has many examples of "national" law enforcement failures. I for one think our local based systems are much better even though it may generate "overlap".
 

byndhlptom

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KISS & trunked

Forgot to add....

isn't KISS and trunked in the same sentence a contradiction of terms???? I don't think we have enough money to build such a national system. I still have serious doubts that trunked is good for PS.
 

wa1emt

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1. The govt will never get.it as long as they have realatives that work or own a comms company where they can put on a bid and get your free money.
2. Amateur radio operators never have an issue and its.most if not all built with personel money and time.
3. The govt sucks....
When jave they EVER done anything correct.
 

datainmotion

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What the U.S. needs is Federal Police system like other countries around the world, then a Federal radio system that is paid for by Federal taxes (WOW what a concept, get rid of all the little fifedoms).
With all due respect...HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
I think I understand your perspective, but again, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

But seriously - the DOJ seems to be above the law and accountable to no one now (see Fast and Furious), why would we want more of the that and worse by creating a "National Police Force"?
 
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902

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Oh man! This is a great conversation!

Overlap is not necessarily a bad thing because it builds in surge capability. Without some of that, a local entity could be overwhelmed by relatively minor situations. For example, many smaller cities' fire departments (either volunteer or career) would be overwhelmed by fighting two working fires at a time. The probability of that happening coincidentally is relatively small, but deliberately, not so small. Of course, too much overlap is an overt duplication and is wasteful.

I've seen consolidation positively impact taxes, but negatively impact local businesses. Think about a county where each town bids its radio maintenance services. Say there are 3 shops that place competitive bids. A consolidation occurs - it doesn't even have to be a brick and mortar consolidation, but every agency goes on a common system. Given the tendency of manufacturers to want to marry their buyers to proprietary goodies and our weak standards that are led by the manufacturing community, two of the three shops can no longer compete because they cannot provide compatible equipment. Now you have a situation where this equipment must be purchased through sole source procurement. Not real good public policy.

As for a homogenous radio system administered by... someone else... when was the last time a cellular carrier notified your agency that a cellsite was down? This degree of accountability is why NFPA1221 is so harsh on span of control and ISO will downgrade dispatching operations that rely on third-party alerting or communications systems.

Manufacturers were well aware of the need for multiband devices. I've had conversations with several corporate policy makers who expressed that they could not recoup their R&D costs (nonsense). I believe the real reason is just what you said, Radioman2001, if you could solve the interoperability issues where they are needed - onscene between everyone operating under unified command - we wouldn't need these multibillion dollar whiz bang networked systems. The choice to deadline low band happened around the time these large systems were emerging, too.

There are simple trunked systems. LTR is one. I saw my first LTR radio around 1985. They worked great back then and they still do. I'd even accept the argument that a 5 base station 6809-based SmartNet system is "simple." It won't cover everything you'd likely need, but it is simple.

IMO, government did things right when it was fighting the (dare I say first?) depression. The Works Progress Administration, through its investment in COMMUNITIES built the foundation of many of the things we have today - and put the people in those communities to work as builders. I would also say that Congress was always nasty business, and that the office of President was reduced of its dignity and degraded to Springer status following JFK. One man's opinion, at least.

Finally, amateurs. I am one, myself. But the biggest mistake in public safety is that just because you can fish junk out of a dumpster and turn it into an IRLP-linked repeater network doesn't mean public safety systems should be improvised and have talking controllers (I hate those things). Amateurs can be a valid auxiliary when things fall apart if they select a leader and work within NIMS (my experiences with several groups are that the strong personalities of some are better suited to freelancing, and that's got no place in public safety), but for everyday things, public safety really does need the degree of hardware reliability it has. The house of cards is the way it's all put together.
 

MTS2000des

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a Federal national police force?
that's a good one.

No thanks, I'd much rather have a real voice and say when it comes to the ability of government to take my freedom away.

You do realize that the Federal system is NOT one you ever want to be in the DEFENDANT'S seat right?
 

RobertsRadio

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Interoperability - An easier way

All local, state and federal agencies must have the ability to communicate via two-way radio during routine and disaster situations, but right now this is difficult to accomplish because local, state and federal agencies are using disparate radio systems in the different frequencies band from 30 MHz to 900 MHz. Some people have suggested that multi-band radios are the solution to this problem and several radio manufacturers are marketing multi-band radios now, but the problem is these are too expensive. To me the solution is to move all local, state and federal agencies into one of the existing frequency bands where the majority of government agencies already reside and move all other users out. Many people will think this is a crazy idea and that it could never be done, but the FCC has mandated other big projects affecting the radio spectrum like narrow banding of VHF and UHF bands along with rebanding of the 800 MHz spectrum so why couldn't something similar be done to move all local, state and federal agencies into the same band? Interoperability between agencies wouldn't be nearly as complicated if all were in the same frequency range, right? Agencies could continue to purchase radios with the technology they prefer, such as analog, P25, MotoTRBO, Nexedge, Tetra, etc. to operate their own systems and still have the ability to have analog conventional mutual aid channels to use during disasters. Right now, there are about 20 mutual aid channels designated for use nationwide (about four per band) among the VHF, UHF, 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands. I've heard public safety officials say there are not enough mutual aid channels available to handle a major disaster in the specific band they operate in, but if all public safety were in the same band and there were 20 channels designated for mutual aid nationwide then this should be more than adequate. There is a huge push to have the "D" block of 700 MHz opened up for public safety broadband, but it looks as if this is given to public safety then it will come a price of giving up something else. One proposal was to have public safety vacate the UHF spectrum while another proposes public safety give up the 700 MHz narrowband voice channels, but to me either one will be detrimental to public safety operations. What if there was one band that could provide the same amount of spectrum to public safety that it has between all of the bands being used now? Would the FCC, Congress, public safety agencies and organizations, local and state governments and others support it? If the FCC had the opportunity to revamp the use of all spectrum from 150 MHz up to 900 MHz should they do it? Yes, this would be extremely expensive to do when you consider the cost of moving private businesses and other users from one frequency band to another in order to move public safety and other government operations into one band. The FCC, Congress and others seemed to be focused on how much money they can make on selling spectrum and how public safety should agree to vacate one section of spectrum to get another, so how much spectrum could be freed up if public safety and other government operations were moved into one band and private businesses and other operations were moved into another? My guess is after all is said and done the FCC would have a large amount of spectrum to auction because there are many, many businesses, private organizations and other radio users out there who continue to hold FCC Licenses for radio frequencies even though they never use them. A true audit of radio frequency use and a revamping of spectrum could really open up some great possibilities in the country, not to mention allow the FCC to sell off large portions of spectrum that isn't being used. Hello, is anyone in Congress and or the FCC listening....
 

MTS2000des

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the "one size fits all" band solution isn't reality.
the diverse land lay of the USA, tremendous infrastructure cost, and backhaul are all reasons this will never be a reality. Radio bands propagate differently. Terrain, population density are so diverse in the USA, you can't simply just put everyone on one band and expect it to work.

Around here, everyone is on, IMO, barely functional 800MHz simulcast trunking systems, primarily from one vendor, who sold them BARELY enough infrastructure to cover the geographic area. As I work for a user of one of these municipal radio systems, I experience it's shortcomings daily. The tough terrain and population density of metro Atlanta is a challenge for any RF coverage, cellular and PCS included.


In some parts of this country, VHF high band barely has mobile coverage, whereas urban areas, UHF and 700/800MHz are the only thing that can penetrate reinforced concrete buildings. NYC and Los Angeles both have radio systems on the UHF T-band that are designed for on hip 2-watt portable coverage from anywhere in their cities, and the 490MHz signals actually do better getting inside steel structures than 700/800MHz waves which get reflected more.

Simply put, there is no one size fits all solution

Multi-band radios too expensive? Artificial inflation because people don't shop around and tell their vendors "I'm not gonna pay alot of this muffler"

Multi-band VHF/UHF radios have been available for the last 25 plus years in amateur radio, from big names like Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu, and costs a few hundred dollars for top end models.

Time for the CUSTOMERS to put out real, true RFP's.

Companies like Hytera, Kenwood and Icom would be the ones to look to for multiband portables in the sub $1500 price range, but only if customers demanded it en masse.

FWIW, Vertex made a dual band LMR public safety grade portable since 1988, the FTH-2070, but some were too distracted being sold 800MHz trunking systems to notice.

Many of those 2070's are still in service (and soon to be retired in 2013) today 20 years later. No expensive, proprietary infrastructure needed for them.

It's not hard to build multiband radios today, every cellphone is an example of this.

The price is high because it can be.

All it's going to take is someone like Hytera to bring out a $1000 VHF/UHF/700/800 portable and it would force the artificial inflation that Motorola/Harris have been forcing on the industry for the last 20 years.

It's the same reason gas prices are hitting close to $4.00 a gallon in the USA, people are willing to pay it.

Once people refuse, the price WILL go down, or someone breaks the mold and plays Wal-Mart. Hello China!
 
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