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  1. #1
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    Default Comm - seperate & dedicated bands for voice, data and video - Any thoughts?

    First, I am not a first responder; my observations are from an technology outsider who follows the Public Safety sector and is aware of recurring communication problems. Please share your opinions and recommendation or critique my idea, from your point of view.

    The existing Public Safety band is very congested and getting worse. Two very significant contributors to that are; (1) the always growing number of "voice" radio users, and (2) the rapidly growing use of "data" and "video" technology. The communications failures during Hurricane Andrew, 9/11, and Katrina (among others) exposed a variety of problems of which one very significant one was the fact that "ALL" first responders communication was lost, i.e. voice, data, video. I will focus on the following reasons, although there may be more; today, voice, data & video are all sharing the same congested Public Safety band (800MHz) and the same physical infrastructure (towers, back-up systems, etc). Therefore, if a radio tower site goes down or looses power, all communication is gone. If it's not this, it may be that signal noise and interference, caused by the saturated/busy pipeline makes communication extremely difficult.

    So, why not assign these 3 technologies their own, separate spectrum/band? Why not build a dedicated, optimized wireless "DATA" network? Why not do the same for "video"? Why not take data and video off the existing Public Safety pipeline to increase the available bandwidth for "VOICE" communication? Adopting such a strategy will enable much needed redundancy, since the probability of 3 separate infrastructures going down at the same time is lower, as compare to today's scenario. Also, if "voice" (the most real-time communication form) is lost or diminished, we can rely on the "data" network to offer near real-time communication, while it continues to provide its other vital functions, i.e. CAD, AVL, web access, e-mail, Instant Messeging, Telemetry applications, etc. Also, the technology characteristics, technical infrastructures and deployment requirements are different enough to justify the separation, from a cost, reliability and productivity view point. For example, a single channel/single base station for "voice" communication can support several hundred (ex. 400) users. Contrast that with a single channel/single base station for "data" communication, which can suport several thousands (ex. 4000) users.

    Enough from me. What do you think?


  2. #2
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    While it is nice to someone thinking of a way around the problems, I don't think it will help much. The only thing seperating the forms of communications by band will do is alliviate some congestion on day-to-day operations.

    It is a simple fact of life that our communications rely on radio towers or tall buildings. All of these are subject to the wrath of mother nature. If a 28ft tidal surge comes through town, it is going to wash out the radio equipment at the base of all the towers. Enough force or erosion can physically take out the actual tower. It doesn't really matter if you have voice on one tower and data on another tower. They are all going to be gone. The same goes for wind damage from a hurricane, either the plain old wind loading or an airborn object taking out guy wires.

    In the case of a widespread power failure from a natural or man-made disaster, it again doesn't really matter how seperate you make things. It's all going to fall back on battery or generator. Eventually, the batteries and generators are going to run out of juice. Unless you can get a fuel supply truck in there, you're basicly screwed.

    Incidents that only disrupt one site are things like isolated mechanical/electrical failures, terrorist attacks, and radio equipment failures. This is where not having all your stuff on one site proves wise. One building or tower failing won't kill everything. Unfortunately, this is often not an option. Let me give my own department as an example. The tower at our firehouse is the only game in town. There are no other significant towers in any direction for a good 6 miles or more. The terrain is very bad so this one tower is the only tower that covers the area. Various companies and the town have been trying to get another tower up but it is an endless battle. The tree-huggers think they are evil (even though they all have phones on thie hip). The snobby residents think they are ugly and whine non-stop. And the regulations require a K1200 to cut through them. We've been trying for years without luck. There are no tall buildings. The highest building is the peak of a 3 story house. We want to have a backup site. We need a backup site. We have the money for it which many small communities like us do not. But we just can't have one. If we lose the tower, the tower hut, or run out of diesel fuel in the generator, we will have no radio. This is the case all over the nation.

    Also as an FYI, most of the modern data systems are integrated with the voice systems. It really isn't hogging any more spectrum than one or the other by itself. The real problem is redundency and backup rather than congestion.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  3. #3
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    Default food for thought...

    Your point is well taken, assuming the infrastructure (towers, base stations) of the voice and data networks are in the same general area, i.e. within a tens of square miles. However, this is where the technological difference between voice and data can help redundancy and backup capabilities. There are wireless data network solutions, where a single tower/base station can cover up to an area of 1,000 square miles, and support up to 4,000 data subscribers. To be ultra conservative, cut everything in half, up to 500 square miles (20 miles x 25 miles area) and 2,000 data users. This means that you can afford to locate your data towers farther away from the targeted area, even away from your jurisdiction, and still get coverage. You can even share the costs with your neighboring police, fire and ems depts. Also, the physical size and power requirements of data vs voice equipment is different enough to enable rapid and easy transportability in events such as Katrina. The posibilities are there, they just need to be understood and explored. Food for thought. I understand the social/political issue very well, though. I live in an area where cellular reception was terrible for years because citizens resisted the idea of looking at towers for a long time. Things are better now...

  4. #4
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frstrspndrsprtr
    There are wireless data network solutions, where a single tower/base station can cover up to an area of 1,000 square miles, and support up to 4,000 data subscribers. To be ultra conservative, cut everything in half, up to 500 square miles (20 miles x 25 miles area) and 2,000 data users.
    That is simply a pipe dream. RF does not work like that, especially with wireless data. And you are leaving out the HUGE variables of terrain, building obstructions, multipathing, and the horizon. What you're suggesting is simply not practial in maby cases and flat out impossible in most cases. It might be doable in the great plains where the biggest hill is an ant hill and the biggest building is a grain silo, but those places generally don't need a radio system like that anyway.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  5. #5
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    Default Showing my age

    When I became a firefighter we did not have two-way radios. Sure was quiet in the cab. The first one was single channel with volumn and squelch and you had to wait for the dynamotor before you could talk.

    I don't wish for the old days but it sure was simple.

    Stay safe,

    Pete
    Pete Sinclair
    Hartford, MI
    IACOJ (Retired Division)

  6. #6
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    Default "Technology Benefits"

    All of our modern technology helps on a day to day basis but when the Sh.. hits the proverbial fan it falls apart. With trucked systems etc. we depend on a fixed infrastructure to keep us operational. Older simplex point to point systems didn't need the fixed equipment. If a truck ran it could use it's radio to talk to another truck. If a handheld had a charged battery it could talk to another walkie or a truck. Yes the bands got crowded and we walked on each other but at least we could talk! Now if we loose base stations and repeaters we can't talk!!

    Maybe the new technology is not so good after all??

  7. #7
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    Default

    Sounds like a great system, but who is going to pay for it? Many departments do not even have enough money to provide proper and safe protective equipment or fire apparatus. There is no measurable return on investment for a high end data\voice\video public safety network for most fire departments. You could try to sell it on faster communications or improved interoperability, but it would be a hard sell. I have people in town here who are vocal against the fire department chiefs having cell phones. A very large organization may be able to sell the system, but us small departments would never get it past the local boards that control the spending of tax dollars.

    Complex systems mean more overhead to keep things going. The overhead includes technicians, either employed by the town or on contract, plus money to keep things going after the warranty runs out. As much as I love technology and new applications, I know I can depend on a simple analog voice simplex hand-held to get a message from inside the building (or hot zone) to the IC.
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    "The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
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