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Portable / Mobile radio lifecycle expectations & costs

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buckyswider

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Hi all,

Wondering if anyone has any links to any studies/whitepapers etc. on what an organization should expect in terms of lifecycle expectations for portable and mobile radios for the fire service? I know a lot of it is "it depends" based on the type of system, radio feature set, etc., but some general guidelines probably exist somewhere. Something along the lines of how much would be a normal and reasonable cost per day for equipment. So if a portable has an expected lifespan of 10 years, and it costs $3K, it would be 82 cents per day.

Thanks!
 

Mr_Boh

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Portable / Mobile radio lifecycle expectations & costs

Whoops. Edit.

Missed the fire service part. I believe NFPA has draft guidelines based on NIST tests and real world scenarios since their standards on radios are due soon. I'll see if I can find it.
 
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mmckenna

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I'd have to dig for it, but we use:

Portables: 5 years.
Mobiles: 7-10 years.

Of course those aren't hard numbers. We often see more life from portables if they are taken care of. Some guys abuse the crap out of them, and we get less.

Mobiles almost seem more like a technology/support thing. A properly installed and maintained mobile, especially one that's the proper radio for the application, will last pretty long.

Expendable accessories not included...
 

buckyswider

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Thanks MrBoh. Look forward to it- hopefully you can find it!

mmckenna, thanks for the reply! I guess this exemplifies the "it depends!" axiom. My current frame of reference is XPS2500 & XPS5000 portables which went into service in 2004. M announced end-of-support for these effective the end of 2019 (which I thought was rather soon). Every portable originally owned is still in service- We've probably had 12-15 we've had to send out for service over the years, but aside from batteries, mics, and antennae, no other issues. We're a mid-size volly company averaging ~500 calls per year.

Now we're replacing these, and I'm trying to decide whether I need to complain about the expected service life of the new APX6000XE models we're putting into service.
 
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mmckenna

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Understood.

Make sure you consider some of the other options out there. There are some perfectly good radios with better support than Motorola. The old timers might balk, but they'll get over it. Almost all fire agencies around here switched to Kenwood about 10 years or more back. Getting rare to see much new Motorola stuff.
Harris, BK, etc. All good options.
 

DisasterGuy

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The only published info I have ever seen is from the State of FL DMS. We plan for 7 years or so on portables and we replace mobiles with the vehicle they are mounted in. We plan for infrastructure lifecycle at 15 years.

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Mr_Boh

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Now we're replacing these, and I'm trying to decide whether I need to complain about the expected service life of the new APX6000XE models we're putting into service.

So I'm still digging. Most don't have service life on them, just durability testing (it would be on you to infer how long based on the data provided to see how long they will last). All the white papers are of course put out by the mfgs so they really paint their own products in good light.

Here's my advice - and I don't know what system you are using.

1. Pick a standard to follow - FM or UL. Read their standards because not all the accessories are FM certified. Assuming of course you're doing with XE and XE accessories. Don't mix UL only accessories with an FM only radio. A bunch of stuff is both.

2. Again, depending on the system(s) you're operating on take a strong look at doing an 8000 with the longest possible warranty. You can order the 8000 in single band to provide an upgrade path later and other than the multiband part the hardware is so close that I would not be surprised if the 6000 is given an EOL soon. Also being that it's the newest it will help guarantee the model will stick around for a while. Finally the 8500 mobile is different enough that it would be a better mobile to adopt for longest term of service.

I go down this path with computers ALL THE TIME. The argument of which one will last longer will always be a moot point because not all vulnerabilities and weaknesses will be noticible out of the gate. So you play the game of either buying the device that is tried and tested and will be out of support soon or the device that is newer but hasn't been kicking around enough in various use cases to recognize the problems.

I always can reccomend going with the newest available. You'll be able to beat your account manager up to get a good price so he gets the new stuff out there and gives you a good warranty when you are concerned it hasn't been truly field tested yet.
 

buckyswider

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Understood.

Make sure you consider some of the other options out there. There are some perfectly good radios with better support than Motorola. The old timers might balk, but they'll get over it. Almost all fire agencies around here switched to Kenwood about 10 years or more back. Getting rare to see much new Motorola stuff.
Harris, BK, etc. All good options.

And therein lies the rub! M hardware is the *only* hardware allowed on the county-run system. So we're in a lose-lose situation. Only thing I can do is try to make sure we get a fair lifespan out of the radios. And I believe we are most certainly not. Intentionally didn't post this is the M specific sub-forum so I could potentially gather opinions across all manufacturer's product lines.
 

buckyswider

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So I'm still digging. Most don't have service life on them, just durability testing (it would be on you to infer how long based on the data provided to see how long they will last). All the white papers are of course put out by the mfgs so they really paint their own products in good light.

Here's my advice - and I don't know what system you are using.

1. Pick a standard to follow - FM or UL. Read their standards because not all the accessories are FM certified. Assuming of course you're doing with XE and XE accessories. Don't mix UL only accessories with an FM only radio. A bunch of stuff is both.

2. Again, depending on the system(s) you're operating on take a strong look at doing an 8000 with the longest possible warranty. You can order the 8000 in single band to provide an upgrade path later and other than the multiband part the hardware is so close that I would not be surprised if the 6000 is given an EOL soon. Also being that it's the newest it will help guarantee the model will stick around for a while. Finally the 8500 mobile is different enough that it would be a better mobile to adopt for longest term of service.

I go down this path with computers ALL THE TIME. The argument of which one will last longer will always be a moot point because not all vulnerabilities and weaknesses will be noticible out of the gate. So you play the game of either buying the device that is tried and tested and will be out of support soon or the device that is newer but hasn't been kicking around enough in various use cases to recognize the problems.

I always can reccomend going with the newest available. You'll be able to beat your account manager up to get a good price so he gets the new stuff out there and gives you a good warranty when you are concerned it hasn't been truly field tested yet.
Great, thanks again Mr. Boh. It's not the hardware that has me concerned- it is, in fact, Motorola support.

Last week we were delivered 34 new APX6000XE. I went out to MoL to look to see if I needed firmware upgrades for my old chargers for these, and the first thing that hit me was the EOL notification for the APX 6000XE (certain hardware versions). And, of course, the radios we haven't even put into service yet will be out of support on 12/31/2023. So we'll have just a bit over 6 years on these very expensive portables before they turn into pumpkins. Heck, the reason they twisted our arms to ditches the XPS's was because their EOL of 12/31/2019 meant no more parts availability. So it's the same thing for these APX's.

So after that date, if they break, instead of the normal ~$400 service fee we have to replace the radio with a new one. But that's not the part that scares me- it's the likelihood that we'll be required need to implement a new feature after that date- let's make up something- the FCC is requiring "double top secret probation encryption" on our radios. And GUESS WHAT? Since our radios are EOL, there's no firmware available for those, and our only choice is to go spend a couple hundo thousand AGAIN to replace the radios that still work just fine.

Again, my current frame of reference for "expensive" radios is that 2004-2019 supported lifespan for our XTS2500 and XTS5000. Was anticipating at LEAST that long for these new radios, but getting only ~40% of it!!!

And I know all too well the IT comparison. :) I'm on the sales side of an enterprise vendor. Any new hardware we release has a 10 year support guarantee, but it's extremely rare that F500 companies want to keep gear on the floor anywhere near that long, because Moore's law renders things obsolete in just a few years. But I can't make the leap to compare with radios that closely, as there aren't the same gains to be had with increased processing power.
 

DisasterGuy

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I would seriously challenge the limitation of the system to a single vendor unless the county is supplying all programming and repair. It does take a lot of work to have programming files for multiple makes and models but if there are already outside shops providing this service that limitation is moot. The county should however perform full testing of any new radio on the system. Both Harris and EFJ/Kenwood as well as others likely have products that fit your need and would allow you to competitive bid them.

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DisasterGuy

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Just noticed the comment about the type II system. If the system is type II, EFJ still has quality products that have been fully tested on those systems.

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Mr_Boh

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Portable / Mobile radio lifecycle expectations & costs

Just noticed the comment about the type II system. If the system is type II, EFJ still has quality products that have been fully tested on those systems.

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Exactly where I was going with it, especially as it pertains to your prior comment.

They are just annoying to deal with right now (for us at least) while the clean up is still worked on from the acquisition by JVC Kenwood

Kenwood actually has what IMO a better KVL than the 4000, although I hear a 5000 or whatever the next number will be for Motorola is not far off.

If nothing else, it gets your Account Manager seriously worried. The whole "you must use our radios on our system" contract is challengeable but either way you could demo the EF Viking and see if it will fit your needs.
 

buckyswider

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Yep, it is type II.

I believe it is indeed time to challenge the single-source end-user paradigm, especially if we're paying $1.68 per day per portable! (cost / supported lifespan). But the initial 34 are signed, sealed, and delivered- but I'm trying to find a frame of reference to hold someone's feet to the fire to ensure we get longer a long support life out of these- like, say, in years 7-10, if a unit is deemed unrepairable due to lack of parts or unsupportable due to lack of new firmware, then we will be supplied with a newer, supported unit for the cost of a standard repair.

But I wanted to try to make sure I'm being reasonable with my lifespan expectations and not just whining! ;)
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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Exactly where I was going with it, especially as it pertains to your prior comment.

They are just annoying to deal with right now (for us at least) while the clean up is still worked on from the acquisition by JVC Kenwood

Kenwood actually has what IMO a better KVL than the 4000, although I hear a 5000 or whatever the next number will be for Motorola is not far off.

If nothing else, it gets your Account Manager seriously worried. The whole "you must use our radios on our system" contract is challengeable but either way you could demo the EF Viking and see if it will fit your needs.
Buy or borrow the EFJ Demo radios and make sure a few are visibly in hands of users and one or two on your desk when the Motorola rep stops by!
 

mmckenna

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Yeah, I agree, the "Motorola Only" thing usually violates procurement rules as it blocks competition.

I used to run a Type 2 system for many years, and got tired of the Motorola BS. We were running EF Johnson 5100's on our system and they worked just fine. They were cheaper, shared some accessories with the Motos, the programming software was cheaper, and I felt it was easier to use.

Contact EF Johnson/Kenwood and find out who your local factory representative is. They should put you in touch. They should work with you and your system administrator to put a few radios on your system to try out. You'll need an EF Johnson specific system key, as they are different than the Motorola keys, but EFJ did ours for free.

They do have some nice radios out now that will do Analog, P25 and SmartNet/SmartZone trunking. Even a dual band model. You might find they are more competitive on pricing. I've also found that Kenwood is lightyears ahead on the customer service side compared to Motorola.

Take a look at the EF Johnson VP line of radios. I went to a demo for those a few weeks back with a couple of fire departments. They had an APX and an EF Johnson side by side, as well as a pair of portables out at an engine in the parking lot. They fired up the engine, high idle, then had a guy try talking from the pump panel back to the conference room we were using. The EF Johnson was way easier to hear than the APX. The noise cancellation was pretty impressive.

If you have trouble finding who your factory rep is, send me a PM and I can help you track them down. They usually love to come in offer up a competitive product, especially on "Motorola Only" systems.
 
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