January 12, 2012

Contract Award: Harris to provide interoperable communications for Montgomery's safety operators

News Report

As announced in a recent press release, Harris has been awarded a $7.3 million contract by the Montgomery Metro Communications Cooperative District (MMCCD) to design and implement a standards-based digital radio system in the City and County of Montgomery, Alabama, home to more than 222,000 residents. The contract was awarded in June, 2011.

The Harris P25IP 800 MHz radio system will enable reliable, interoperable communications for MMCCD's 2,400 users, including upwards of 1,500 first responders, with surrounding agencies. The Harris P25IP system will provide a cost-effective migration path from Montgomery's legacy EDACS system, minimizing disruption to public safety agencies. The contract also includes Harris M7300 mobile radios, P7300 and P5250 portable radios and CS7000 control stations for future-ready P25 Phase 2 operation.
The Technology

Public safety radio systems (such as those used by police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians) operate in several portions of the 800 MHz band, which consists of spectrum at 806-824 MHz paired with spectrum at 851-869 MHz. The 800 MHz band is also home to commercial wireless carriers and private radio systems. In 2004, the FCC reconfigured the band plan for 800 MHz to separate public safety systems in the band from commercial wireless systems using cellular architecture.

APCO (Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International) Project 25 is a suite of digital Land Mobile Radio standards developed by public safety professionals, for public safety professionals operating in North America within the FCC assigned bands. P25 specifies a number of “interfaces” between different system elements including the Inter Subsystem Interface (ISSI) and the Common Air Interface (CAI). These standard interfaces are necessary to achieve two of P25’s most important goals – Interoperability and Competition. In this regard, P25 fills the same role as the European Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) protocol, although not interoperable with it.

Harris P25IP terminals, using the P25 CAI, provide maximum flexibility because they can operate on Harris P25IP systems or on Project 25-compliant systems from other manufacturers. In addition to P25IP, Harris’ multi-mode radios support several different wireless protocols including OpenSky, EDACS and analog conventional. This multi-mode capability allows customers to migrate from legacy systems to P25IP systems gradually, as permitted by agency budgets.

The Harris P25IP system uses the power of the Harris VIDA network, which provides network-level interoperable communications with other public safety agencies. The Harris P25IP system will consist of five sites to accommodate the needs of first responders across Montgomery County, and can expand to accommodate the communication needs of neighboring counties in the future if needed.

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. The new P25 system complies with both the current P25 Phase 1 standard and the emerging P25 Phase 2 industry standards.

The Context

In the examination of their current and future needs, public safety communications agencies identified several factors that pointed to the need to develop advanced digital two-way communications to replace aging and spectrally inefficient analog systems, i.e. the growing scarcity of available radio spectrum, better voice quality over greater areas, the growing demand for the integration of new, bandwidth intensive, data functions, and security concerns. In the U.S., the Project 25 initiative has brought together a wide array of local, state, and government agencies with support from the U.S. Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) to evaluate and develop a new standard for digital two-way radio. Co-chaired by APCO International and the National Association of State Telecommunications Directors (NASTD), a steering committee was given the job of evaluating the plethora of technologies. Several sub-committees, in-turn, provide the technical expertise to research a number of specialized areas. Aeroflex, through its association with the Telecommunications Industrial Association, has been a key contributor to researching and defining testing parameters for the new standard.

The principle guiding the work of the steering committee was to establish an open narrowband digital radio standard so that multiple vendors could compete for contracts to supply compliant networks with interoperable products. Secondary principles include achieving maximum radio spectrum efficiency and simplifying P25 equipment.


"The MMCCD is committed to providing the best possible service to citizens and responders, and we recognized the need to migrate to a standards-based system to increase the interoperable capabilities of our emergency response," said Chief Deputy Derrick Cunningham, Chairman of the MMCCD Board. "After a thorough evaluation and review process, we selected the Harris P25IP system as the best choice to meet the needs of public safety forces today and moving into the future. We are investing in standards-based equipment while still utilizing our legacy equipment to reduce costs."

"With the Harris P25IP system, the MMCCD is receiving one of the most flexible, scalable and reliable radio solutions available today," said Steve Marschilok, president, Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications. "This solution allows the City and County of Montgomery to undergo a seamless migration from the existing EDACS system to their communications platform for the future."

References: Harris (1,3), FCC (2), P25.com (3)

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