Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Now we've heard it all!

In the latest series of customer disinformation, one vendor is telling prospective fire department purchasers of 2-way radios using FEMA grant money that they can purchase ordinary analog narrow band radios on the basis that they meet Phase 1 P25 requirements. This guy is the hands down winner of our second Doofus Award for March. Either he is terribly misinformed, or purposefully misstating facts. Other Doofus Award winners can be found at http://falconinfo.blogspot.com/2010/03/doofus-of-day-awards.html.

The very term P25 means DIGITAL! For a radio to be P25 compliant, it must be CAI (Common Air Interface) tested and certified. The fact that a radio has 12.5 kHz channel spacing (narrow band) capability does NOT make it P25. A basic P25 CAI compliant radio must be capable of operating at 25 kHz or 12.5 kHz in an analog AND digital mode.

The term P25 is used to describe the APCO (Association of Public Safety Communications Officials) specified standard for DIGITAL voice modulation. This standard specifies the type of digital signals transmitted by COMPLIANT radios. One radio using P25 CAI should be able to communicate with any other P25 CAI compliant radio, regardless of manufacturer and model. In plain language a Motorola P25 CAI compliant radio will talk to a BK/Relm, ICOM, or a Midland IN A DIGITAL OPERATING MODE!

P25 CAI is a digital voice (modulation) type and therefore can be used on conventional channel radio system or in a trunking radio system. System type is not dependent on the use of P25 CAI except in the case of a Project 25 Trunking Radio System; in that specific case only P25 CAI modulation is used (no analog allowed).

Any purchaser of communications equipment using 2009 FEMA Fire Grant funding should purchase only P25 compliant equipment to comply with published interoperability standards. P25 trunking capability is not required under the FEMA guidelines but the purchase of a radio with this capability or one capable of being upgraded to this capability would normally be recommended. The standard used to determine grant compliance is called SAFECOM. The standard is readily available for any who will take the time to review it on the web. If you would like a simple one page overview of SAFECOM standards for communications purchases using federal grant money, please visit www.info4u.us/SAFECOM-2010.pdf for the real facts!

For those interested in additional information on P25, just click here. Be very careful who you take advise from. If in doubt, call your FEMA grant representative. It could save you a lot of problems down the road!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hytera versus MotoTRBO

The original of this posting was  made in 2010.  Since that time, much has changed.  In the briefest of terms, Hytera offers an open standard which allows free competition for their DMR products. Motorola does not, which locks their customers into buying nothing else but Motorola.  Additional information is available by clicking here.  If you would like to know more about the current Hytera offerings, please click here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

2010 FEMA Fire Grant Program Overview

For those who have not yet attended, or may not be able to attend a 2010 FEMA grant workshop, we offer our comments based on attendance at a recent workshop. We should point out that these comments are based on our understanding of the material presented.

Assistance to Firefighters (AFG)

There will be less funding this year than last year. Competition for vehicles will be INTENSE for $97.5 million allocated! There will be no building and construction plan for 2010.

In the Operations and Safety category, the priorities have changed. Top priority projects will be favored. Departments that do not have 100% of their personnel trained would be well advised to apply for training to correct this issue. Grading will be prioritized on CALL VOLUME AND POPULATION SERVED! There are no major differences between the 2009 and 2010 guidelines known at this time. The requirements of the 2009 program will be more rigidly enforced.

In regard to communications, all digital equipment will be (a) P25 capable and/or (b) subject to compliance with SAFECOM standards. As a senior executive from a major manufacturer stated, there are some “cracks in the door” (i.e. the possibility of applying for equipment that can be upgraded to P25, or a plan to certify interoperability with the State Plan). In reality, it will cost you more to “upgrade” than it would to purchase approved P25 equipment. State DHS offices cannot draft policy and/or guidance for federally administered grant programs including the FEMA Assistance to Firefighters grant.

We are aware of the claims of some vendors that narrow band 12.5 kHz analog or competitive digital formats meet the requirements for being P25 compatible. THEY DO NOT! For clarification on this issue, please click here.

Relative to competitive bidding, you WILL get a minimum of two bid responses. You will not write restrictive specifications, and you will not use geographic proximity as the basis for award of your bid. The award will be based on compliance with specifications and low price alone. FEMA will not pay for extended warranties.

If you are applying for a TANKER, do not apply for one with a pumping capacity of more than 500 gpm. Do NOT include mutual aid in you call statistics or your justification for funds. The grading is based on your service to your community, not lower insurance rates or helping neighboring departments. By FEMA’s definition, your job is to protect your community and your fire fighters.

The good news is that FEMA will now pay for smoke and fire alarm notification systems for fire stations as well as various type of vehicle location, directional assistance, and time reporting systems (think Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems). Hearing protection systems and wireless fire ground communications are also approved. More information will be provided later on the $30 million Fire Protection & Safety (FP&S) program which will open in the fall as well as the smaller ($7.8 Million) EMS program which are a part of the $320 million dollar AFG program.

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program

Originally targeted to receive $420 million, compared to $390 million for AFG, this program could receive another $500 million as part of the presidential jobs stimulation program. Of particular interest to smaller departments, the Recruitment and Retention program will pay for the cost of recruitment (advertising), administrative cost (internal, or by private contractor, tuition assistance, and even turnout gear!

For additional information, just give us a call at 205.854.2611 or drop us an email to sales@falcondirect.com. We'll be looking forward to hearing from you!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Are you getting a little upset with trying to get the truth about narrow banding, digital radios, and grant funding requirements?

Are you trying to get the real facts on just exactly why you have to convert existing 2-way radios to narrow band, when you have to make the change, and what the cost will be? Have you been told you must also convert to digital radios and if so, why?

Are you being told one thing by one representative and something totally different by another? Is MotoTRBO better than P25, and what in the world is this NXDN thing that the railroads have selected as their choice for narrow band technology? What is Very Narrow Band? Can you purchase a radio today that will meet your needs for the next ten years, and if so, how does the cost compare with what you have been purchasing?

What about FCC licensing? What will that cost and when should you be upgrading your existing license, and what happens if you don't? And what's all this talk about federal grant money? One vendor tells you you can purchase anything you wish by finding a "crack in the door". Another tells you that you have to buy two new repeater base stations to be able to operate analog and digital radios on the same frequency! Can this possibly be true?

Want to know where to get the straight story? We have prepared a FREE Migration Planner that you can download by clicking here, or drop us an email to Narrowbanding4u@falcondirect.com and we'll send it to you without cost or obligation. Do we have all the answers? Probably not, but we've done our best to give you a fair and objective presentation to allow you to make the best possible choice in making YOUR plans for the future!

New Dual Band Plus PagerRadio - Just $199!

A LEGAL dual band reasonably priced compact portable VHF/UHF radio is available for commercial and public safety use! Unlike the illegally modified amateur radios (Click here for details). FCC Part 90 approval copy is available on request. Our new dual band portable covers both the VHF and UHF bands and has all the features and functionality you would normally expect in a top quality portable radio for just $199 including battery, charger, antenna, clip, free shipping and programming of up to 16 channels and 2-tone paging. Click here for complete specifications.

These radios are designed for 5 kHz channel steps which means they may not be suitable for use on narrow band frequencies using 2.5 kHz steps.  If you are unfamiliar with frequency steps, we encourage you to check out an article on this subject which is available by clicking here. When you are ready to order, click here to go to our Internet store.

You may be interested to know that we have other solutions for providing dual band capability. We have fixed station units for VHF/UHF as well as VHF or UHF to 700/800 MHz trunking. We can even link these radios via the Internet to your desktop, laptop, Blackberry, Droid, or iPhone! For complete information, just give us a call at 205.854.2611 or drop us an email to sales@falcondirect.com.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New Hytera RD-982 Repeater Announced

Hytera offers America's most affordable mixed mode DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) repeater especially designed to work with Motorola's MotoTRBO XPR Series mobile and portable radios as well as the Hytera PD-782 portable and MD-782 mobile analog/digital radios. The most recent offering is a lower cost analog version that can be upgraded to digital when you are ready,  Additional information is available by clicking hereIf you prefer, email ServingU@falcondirect.com, or call us at 205.854.2611.

New Hytera MD782 Mobile Announced

Hytera MD782 is the newest DMR offering in the USA! As you may have noticed in our previous posting, there is now a second source of DMR radios, along with the MotoTRBO XPR4550 series by Motorola.

Now, you have a choice of DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) offerings. Until now, you had only one choice for a DMR compatible mobile radio. The MD782 gives you an alternative that is smaller, lighter, more powerful, with more function control buttons, a full color LCD display with simple GUI interface and significant cost savings.

The MD782 has all the features of the MotoTRBO XPR4550 including ALT (Accelerated Life Testing) and Six Sigma* quality standards. The term "Six Sigma" comes from a field of statistics known as process capability studies. Processes that operate with "six sigma quality" over the short term are assumed to produce long-term defect levels below 3.4 Defects Per Million Opportunities (DPMO). Hytera has actually improved the quality levels on their products by advancing the process to a higher level known as DFSS (Design For Six Sigma) by addressing quality levels beginning at the product design stage rather than applying only at the manufacturing level.

If you would like to take a look at a fully MotoTRBO compatible mobile with a side by side comparison, just give us a call at 205.854.2611 or email sales@falcondirect.com. In the meantime, if you would like to review a brochure on this remarkable new product, please click here.

*Six Sigma is a registered Service Mark (SM) and Trademark (TM) of Motorola Inc.

New Hytera PD782 Portable Announced

As many of our readers know, we have not favored MotoTRBO as a digital technology for public safety users, essentially for four basic reasons. Mainly, until now, the XPR8300 repeater station would handle only analog or digital transmissions - not both, which made it unsuitable for a gradual migration to narrow band. This issue has been resolved with the introduction of the MTR3000 as well as an upgrade for existing XPR8300 repeaters. (Note: The XPR8300 will be replaced by the XPR8400 in 2011).

Our second concern was the absence of 2-tone paging in the analog operational mode which virtually eliminated the use of the XPR6550 for use by volunteer fire and rescue users. This has now been corrected.

The third, and most important, issue is lack of compliance with Department of Homeland Security interoperability standards which are based on P25 technology.  Unless the entire federal standards are changed, this will continue to be an issue.

Our fourth issue is that MotoTRBO is based on a European operating standard, commonly referred to as DMR (Digital Mobile Radio). Until now, Motorola was the sole vendor for this technology in the USA. I said, until now, because there is now a second supplier of this technology in the USA.

The alternative products are offered offered by Hytera, and we are delighted to announce the first of a family of products beginning with the PD782 portable. Think of it as a direct equivalent of the MotoTRBO XPR6550 with all the features and functionality PLUS smaller size and weight, 25% more battery capacity, 20% less cost, a FULL COLOR LCD, icon function selection, new top mounted controls for single handed operation, selectable audible or vibrate alerting, and a world wide patented low profile dual function (GPS/UHF) antenna that we guarantee to out talk any other UHF portable regardless of brand, price or power. Want to put us to the test? Just give us a call at 205.854.2611. In the meantime, if you would like to review a brochure on this remarkable new product, please click here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The news from Las Vegas!

As some of you know, those of us in the wireless communications industry have an annual spring break called IWCE (International Wireless Communication Expo).

We always meet in Las Vegas. It's a wonderful time to get together and meet with each other and do a little bragging about how well we are doing (kind of like a class reunion).

This is the time when the manufacturers and suppliers bring out their big guns with new products and services especially for wireless users and channel partners (that's what used to be called dealers - got to be politically correct you know...).

In a nutshell, the travel is terrible, the accommodations are generally good, as is the food and entertainment. Getting around is a bit troublesome and/or tiring, but we generally come back home a little more enlightened than we were before. So the question is, What did we learn this year?

The big news this year is that the battle lines are being drawn between Harris and Motorola for the top tier communications systems (translate - radios that cost five thousand dollars and up - EACH!). ICOM and Kenwood are doing their best to make NXDN the new US standard while Hytera and Motorola are equally committed to making DMR the standard. P25 is the technology of choice for mission critical use and analog communications will continue to hold it's own for at least another few years, but the real news is the convergence of voice, data, and video; a technology evolution which we call Vodaeo.

The new generation of DMR products by HYT will present new features and capabilities that are relatively new in the US such as COLOR display screens, high efficiency antenna designs, more efficient audio and a higher standard of reliability. The IDAS products by ICOM are leading the way in the integration of communications and computers while smaller companies, such as Critical RF are providing efficient and affordable system solutions using Internet Protocol as the foundation for advanced integrated communications.

We can now track fire and rescue personnel on the scene via efficient and affordable tracking radio and transmit emergency alerting information in ways undreamed of just a year ago! A new vehicle camera system for public safety is capable of transmitting live video from ambulances and police cars and the list goes on! It's all made possible by the power of the Internet and you can learn all about how to plan your wireless future by working with us!

For more information on the new advances in Vodaeo technology, just drop up a line to sales@falcondirect.com or give us a call at 205.854.2611.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Looking for the facts on narrow banding?

It's no wonder that so many are confused about the simple FCC requirement to reduce channel bandwidth from 25 to 12.5 kHz (i.e. narrow banding). An excellent report has been produced by Motorola that we are privileged to share with our readers. Click here for a copy of that report. We appreciate the fact that Motorola is taking some positive steps to help 2-way radio users in planning for this mandatory change requiring all VHF and UHF users to cease using radios (with a few exceptions) that cannot operate at 12.5 kHz no later than January 1, 2013 along with another mandate requiring that all radios sold in the USA after January 1, 2011 be capable of operating at 6.25 kHz efficiency.

We were equally impressed with Motorola's clarification on the use of MotoTRBO® radios for mission critical (i.e. public safety) communications. Apparently, many Motorola dealers, and more than a few field managers, are unaware of the fact that MotoTRBO is not designed for or intended for mission critical use.

We have more or less been the lone voice proclaiming that there is only ONE mission critical approved operating standard and that is APCO-25, otherwise known as P25. Finally, we have clarification and validation from Motorola on this subject. You'll find this information at the bottom of page three and continuing in the attached Motorola document. For now, we thought sharing of this information would be beneficial as follows:

Motorola is currently shipping two complete product families that already meet any FUTURE FCC decision for licensees to operate in a 6.25 kHz equivalent efficiency mode. The Motorola ASTRO® 25 product line for the mission critical public safety market and the MOTOTRBO product line for the commerce and enterprise markets are 6.25 kHz efficiency capable today.

I think the preceding statement should clear up the issue of which product Motorola recommends for mission critical communications. ASTRO® 25 utilizes the federal approved P25 operating system and is the right Motorola product for mission critical communications! Hopefully, those Motorola dealers who have been attempting to promote a non-mission critical technology will correct their mistake and work with the rest of us in establishing a true interoperable communications network to make the USA one of the safest places to live in the world.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Doofus Of The Day Awards!

We have two awards to make today. The first is to Mr. John North, General Manager of the Kenwood General Systems group for his comments made in a recent on-line article published by Radio Resource Media Group. Click here for a copy of that article. In this article he stated that ”the recent update to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Safecom guide for federal grant programs can be interpreted as requiring P25 deployment for public safety”. “But if you read closely, the door is cracked open for an agency with a compelling story to tell,”

In other words, Mr. North is ignoring the P25 federal interoperability standard and the basis for grant funding to fire departments in order to promote a non-compliant alternative offered by his company. Apparently Mr. North is either unaware of the SAFECOM guidance on this subject or chooses to ignore the facts. For the REAL facts on P25, just click here.

The second is the sales manager for a large Alabama Motorola dealership who was invited to speak before a public safety user group on the subject of a suggested plan for narrow banding. His plan was not to embrace the national P25 standard, but instead to select an alternate technology using TWO new repeater stations – one for handling analog radios and another for handling his non-P25 offering.

Apparently, you make more money selling two repeater stations than you do selling one reasonably priced repeater that can handle both analog and digital. To be fair, this “expert” offered a second alternative of buying a single narrow band analog base station that could later be converted to digital. The conversion plan was to purchase non-P25 capable digital radios and operate them in the analog mode until all old radios could be replaced with digital. He did not comment as to how these users would continue to communicate with adjoining agencies that use P25 standard equipment or even analog systems. What a plan! But, it must be a pretty good plan as we have two fire departments in my own county that have embraced this high tech solution to narrow banding.

Congratulations guys. You have WON the Doofus award for today!

Let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. – Amos 5:24