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Hendon Publishing

2012 Radio Outlook for Public Safety

The FCC has issued an order requiring all public safety agencies to migrate their operating systems below 512 MHz to systems based on 12.5 kHz narrowband channels by 2013. The FCC’s order will affect planning, new equipment purchases, and new systems procured in the timeframe leading up to that date.

We all know it is essential first responders be able to communicate to do their jobs effectively. Following are the latest offerings from industry leaders in radios for public safety use.


EFJohnson’s ATLAS™ P25 Systems Solution was recently selected as a 2011 Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) “Hot Product.” The company unveiled ATLAS at the APCO International Conference and Expo (APCO) last August in Philadelphia, and the system immediately received praise from conference participants and industry editors for its innovative distributed architecture, flexibility and low cost.

The fully distributed architecture, a distinctive feature of the ATLAS Systems Solution, eliminates the need for a central controller. This substantially increases system reliability and makes it easy to scale from a single site to a state-wide network.

In addition, the ATLAS P25 Systems Solution is the first and only system in the industry with the ability to combine conventional and trunking into one system, creating a “hybrid” that is completely tailored to a customer’s unique environment.

It introduces simulcast capability for both conventional and trunking systems. ATLAS also offers a complete Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system solution to all public safety VHF, UHF and 700/800 frequency bands, making it a cost efficient option for agencies seeking to comply with the FCC narrowbanding mandates. The software-based system allows for future system enhancements, such as P25 Phase II.
EFJohnson’s ATLAS P25 systems bridge multiple system and protocol types in a software-configurable gateway solution. With this native IP solution, users and talk-groups can roam seamlessly between conventional and trunked P25 sites. ATLAS equipment boasts low power consumption, small size, the ability to operate both conventional and trunking on the same repeater, and simulcast capabilities. “This seems to me to be a step toward interoperability for many users,” said one reviewer.


Harris Corporation’s BeOn® First offers P25 Voice Over 3G Cellular and LTE networks. BeOn, a push-to-talk solution built on the integrated VIDA Network platform, enables enterprises to have managed group communications anywhere in the world using both 3G and 4G commercial or private cellular networks. BeOn users communicate instantly on 3G / 4G platforms such as smartphones, tablets or rugged devices, utilizing the coverage provided by domestic, international and private networks.

Harris announced that its BeOn™ has become the industry’s first solution to enable public safety subscribers on a cellular or public safety LTE network to talk to each other, exchange text messages, and pass real-time location information to connected team members and the dispatcher’s computer-assisted dispatch (CAD) system. The BeOn software application delivers Push-To-Talk (PTT) voice over 3G cellular and commercial and public safety LTE networks — providing users with the integrated P25 (Project 25) feature set, including voice, text messaging and location services, making it the ideal solution for a variety of public safety communication users.

“Since we first introduced BeOn, we recognized that public safety users could greatly benefit from the types of capabilities it offered,” said Steve Marschilok, president, Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications. “We extended the solution’s capabilities to deliver P25 features and functionality to public safety users. Whether on 3G commercial cellular or public safety LMR networks, first responders now have the interoperable voice solution they need to reliably communicate.”

With BeOn, voice communication services are delivered to first responders as voice-over-IP (Internet Protocol) data packets using wireless broadband IP data services. Because BeOn brings a traditional LMR functionality to a software-based network data service, BeOn can run across a variety of IP-based broadband networks, including commercial and public safety LTE networks.

Harris combined its experience in LMR with the interoperability of its VIDATM IP-based network to develop the BeOn solution for public safety. The innovative PTT solution is designed to provide interoperable, P25 communications to first responder agencies. The Harris VIDA network platform is a unified IP-based voice and data communication system based on APCO P25 industry standards. VIDA delivers full IP management features, including interoperability without intervention of console operators, IP consoles and other benefits inherent in open IP architecture systems.

Harris’ BeOn solution is built on the Harris VIDA network, currently deployed by public safety, public services and large private sector entities. VIDA enables high-performance PTT over commercial wireless networks, as well as seamless interoperability with legacy and future LMR systems.


Kenwood expands the capabilities of their NEXEDGE® NX-Series digital / analog mobile and portable radios with an MPT-1327 trunking protocol option. The NX-Series with MPT option can be programmed in MPT analog mode and NXDN® digital trunk / convention mode for parallel operations, facilitating the transition to very narrowband NEXEDGE operation.

The MPT option is available on the NX-200/300, NX-200S/300S and NX-210 portables and NX-700/800 mobiles with additional radios to be added in Q1 2012. NEXEDGE radios are deployed in public safety, government and business and industry.

Kenwood also announced the upgrade to NEXEDGE® version 2.8, and new NEXEDGE NX-200S/300S non-LCD platform portables, NXR-700E/800E 25 Watt Repeaters and NEXEDGE 900 MHz products are among the latest developments in the digital NEXEDGE lineup from Kenwood. The NEXEDGE System firmware Version 2.8 enhances the digital NEXEDGE product line by adding AES/DES encryption options, plus additional GPS/AVL capabilities including additional ID and reporting, power on/off status for the mobiles and portables. It also enables remote updating and a voting option for the NXR-710/810 repeater. Users who require 900 MHz operation now have NEXEDGE capabilities in a full line of subscriber and infrastructure products. New NX-200S/300S, non-LCD portables are ideal for users on a NEXEDGE system that do not require full operating capabilities.

New NXR-700E/800E Repeaters, at 25 Watts of output power, are designed for users who require lower power capabilities, and the NXR-710/810 Repeaters include the updated Version 1/5 firmware update to allow conventional voting operation for expanded capabilities.

The KGP-149RM Repeater Monitor Software enables continuous monitoring of repeaters on NXDN single-site and multi-site trunked networks or NXDN® conventional IP networks and allows 24/7 monitoring and alerts to problems with any repeater within the system, with custom alarm and notification features.


Motorola Solutions expanded its award-winning APX™ P25 Phase 2 TDMA mission critical two-way radio series. The new APX™ 4000 portable is designed to provide public works, utilities and rural public safety users with a durable and compact radio with key features. All radios in the Motorola APX series are P25 Phase 2 capable and designed to help redefine safety for users with best-in-class features, functionality and design.

The APX 4000 provides the mission critical benefits of the APX P25 TDMA family of radios with an easy-to-use form factor for public works, utilities and rural public safety users. The P25 Phase 2 TDMA technology provides twice the voice capacity of Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA) technology for more efficient use of spectrum, providing users improved system access.

Like other APX radios, the APX 4000 has a two-microphone design that reduces background noise so you can speak and hear clearly in challenging environments, an easy user interface and intelligent lighting.

The APX 4000 is the smallest and lightest P25 Phase 2-capable portable radio in the industry. Simplified controls and an enlarged multi-function knob make it easy to turn the radio on or off, set volume, and switch talk groups. Key features included in the radio are GPS outdoor location for personnel safety, encryption, mission critical wireless and over-the-air programming.

The radio also allows public works and utility users to interoperate with P25 mission critical users. Durable and built to last, the APX 4000 is IP67 MIL-STD certified, allowing the radio to be immersed in water up to one meter for 30 minutes.

The radio will be available in 700/800 MHz, VHF, UHF R1, UHF R2 and 900 MHz frequency bands. It is scheduled to begin shipping in North America in early 2012. APX 4000 is compatible with a flexible portfolio of slim batteries and audio accessories, including Motorola’s award-winning Bluetooth® Mission Critical Wireless earpieces and a comprehensive portfolio of remote speaker microphones.

“The APX portfolio of mission critical communication solutions continues to grow to meet the needs of public works, utilities and rural public safety users. With the launch of the APX 4000, Motorola Solutions is the first to offer a complete P25 Phase 2 mission critical portable radio portfolio, which already includes the APX 7000, APX 6000 and Extreme series. Motorola Solutions has designed something for everyone, providing the right device for the right user in every situation. This latest APX portable radio is designed with a mission critical mindset, and yet it is a compact and easy-to-use radio that fits the needs of public works, utilities and rural public safety users,” said Brenda Herold, Corporate Vice President, Motorola Solutions.


From reliable high performance base stations/repeaters to portables and mobiles, routers, networking equipment and user integration, Tait can create a tailored infrastructure solution, while continuing to use elements that comply with the P25 standard. Customers that have particular technical requirements, or who need to interoperate and cooperate with other organizations on a P25 network, will benefit from a single point of accountability and a world-class installation, training and technical support service that can be provided by Tait.

Tait also operates a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognized P25 Compliance Assessment Program (P25 CAP) laboratory and they are committed to offering interoperable solutions that work seamlessly with radios and infrastructure of other manufacturers. The P25 open standard secures value through multi-vendor procurement and gives customers the confidence to purchase radios and infrastructure that will work with those of other manufacturers.

With industry-leading digital audio clarity, superb build quality and tested in a P25 Compliance Assessment Program (P25 CAP) recognized laboratory, the TP9100 series (TP9135/TP9140 and TP9155/TP9160) is a tough, dependable and sophisticated piece of radio engineering. Fully interoperable, the TP9100 gives you the flexibility of working in digital, analog and auto-sensing dual mode. Tait radios have a range of worker safety features and can be used on the analog, P25 conventional, trunked and simulcast networks of Tait and other manufacturers.

The TP9155/60 is specifically designed for the needs of frontline users to ensure communications are secure and interoperable. Tait also manufactures the TP9135/40 radios, which provide reliable digital communications for non-frontline users who require audio clarity without all possible features and configurations.

TP9135/40 features include: Radios can be used on analog, P25 conventional, trunked and simulcast networks; Out of the box and onto the shift as the TP9135/40 is a radio designed for fast integration onto a digital network (the P25 CAI is included as standard); The user interface is identical across all the Tait P25 portables, mobiles and hand-held control heads; Tested beyond MIL-STD-810 C, D, E and F; Rubber armor knobs and base, recessed lens, strong metal-hinged belt clip and a patented secure battery retention mechanism; Angled, textured, shaped and colored controls for intuitive usability Interoperability assured; Genuine P25 open standards ensure choice, value and responsiveness during routine operations or crises.

Crystal-clear digital audio allows precise communication even in noisy situations. Analog mode allows communication between various partner agencies. Software licenses allow a solution that is readily extended as needs change, removing the risk of hardware upgrades and factory returns. Trunking, MDC1200 encode/decode, two-tone decode, P25 CAI, encryption, APIs and conventional OTAR are just some of the software license options available.

According to Steve Cragg, President, Tait Americas, “2012 will bring an assortment of challenges for public safety agencies, some of which are real concerns with compelling timelines and others that are being encouraged by the market wishing to capitalize on still flowing grant funding.”

For agencies operating in the VHF/UHF 150-174 MHz and 421-512 MHz frequency range, to which the January 2013 narrowband mandate applies, finding a capable partner late in 2012 will become increasingly difficult as demand outruns supply. Only a few companies will be able to provide the resources needed for a complete turn-key solution that brings an agency into compliance. Compliance may simply involve network tuning, but may include a wholesale exchange of the infrastructure and the devices it supports. “Agencies should consult with someone they trust early in the year and work up a basic gap analysis that identifies near-term hurdles and the best way to get over them,” Cragg continued. For agencies that are not subject to the January 2013 12.5 MHz mandate, time affords more thought to be invested around the speed at which new technology is adopted and the reasons for doing so. Agencies with ample spectrum, no looming mandate, but a healthy supply of grant funding may be too quick to purchase the absolute newest technology in an effort to future-proof, possibly finding their support staff and processes unable to adapt. Investing in current, proven technology with a clear understanding and commitment from the provider regarding the technical and commercial aspects of a future migration, should it become necessary, may be the best dollar spent.

Cragg said discussions regarding the need to service mobile broadband applications will increase in frequency and intensity in 2012 as agencies look to keep workforce productivity, safety and response levels high while available resources decline. Agencies fortunate enough to be operating in metropolitan areas where commercial wireless coverage levels are high will experiment with small Long Term Evolution (LTE) deployments. For the next few years, the deployments will support non-mission critical applications and will become a technical and operational proving ground as agencies work out the overall cost-benefit of commercial broadband. Agencies in less densely populated areas that wish to achieve the same efficiency gains as their metropolitan brethren will continue to use data cards in vehicles and be subject to spotty coverage and rising data plan rates. The mismatch in what commercial wireless networks provide and the needs of mission critical operations will put positive pressure on radio manufacturers to bring viable alternatives to market in the next 18 to 24 months. In-vehicle, multi-bearer radio systems capable of handing-off and/or buffering data streams between LTE, WiFi, and LMR networks will initially help fill the commercial network gaps. Radio manufacturers with significant experience in designing and deploying network infrastructure will continue to innovate and bring to market all the necessary components that will allow agencies to build and maintain a private broadband network. The challenge at that point in time will be an agency’s ability to leverage the combined knowledge of its RF and IT resources, Cragg said.

“Tait Radio Communications is poised to assist in helping agencies through all the aforementioned challenges. Individuals who choose Tait are independent thinkers who understand the value of operating in a best-of-breed, multi-vendor, open standards environment,” Cragg stated.

Photos courtesy of EF Jonhnson Technologies, Harris, Kenwood, Motorola Solutions and Tait.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jan/Feb 2012

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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