Saturday, May 14, 2011

A word about 800 MHz Statewide networks

To sum it up simply, 800 MHz Statewide networks don't work.  The reason?  Start wherever you wish, beginning with the fact the 800 MHz doesn't work inside buildings (which is very important to law enforcement officers and firefighters).  

800 MHz doesn't serve the needs of rural communities any better.  Rural Sheriff's Departments and volunteer fire departments that are off the main highway are generally not served by these multi-million dollar proprietary systems.

The fact is that 800 MHz Statewide Networks are designed for vehicular, not personal communications.  If you need a radio when you are out of the vehicle, your needs would be much better served by much less expensive and more feature rich technologies developed over the past few years.

Cost is another factor.  For every square mile covered, 800 MHz will cost on average, at least four times more than VHF or UHF and more often than not, ten times as much or more.  As to the cost of mobile and portable radios, the ratio is about as bad - four to ten times more for 800 MHz versus VHF or UHF.

Why the cost difference?  Antiquated technology and/or proprietary operating networks would be a good place to start.  When there is no competition, prices skyrocket!  Case in point, compare any state using an 800 MHz network versus one using VHF or UHF.  Notable examples include Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, and Pennsylvania, all big users of 800 MHz.  Then take your pick of those that don't such as Nebraska, or Wisconsin; both of which are much closer to the real world of cost versus benefit.

Pennsylvania is pretty much the granddaddy of 800 MHz statewide networks.  It is one of the oldest and biggest in the nation.  Click here for a recent article on the situation in Pennsylvania at the present time.  Want some better alternatives?  Give us a call at 205.854.2611.  We can save you a lot of money and provide common sense affordable solutions. That's our job - helping others do their job better!

By the way, before closing our comments on the subject of 800 MHz, it is only to fair to point out that digital radios in general have taken a bad rap for voice quality.  The fact is that the publicity deals primarily with first generation vocoders (the electronic circuit device that converts analog to digital).  A good example is a recent article dealing with problems associated with digital radios at West Point.  Regrettably, the article neglected to mention that the radios used were first generation models.  Of equal importable, the demonstration involved a fully suited firefighter talking through a face mask.  You couldn't understand what was being said with or without the radio!

In the interest of fairness, it should be noted that advanced model vocoders are getting better and better, and will soon surpass the audio quality of analog (as was the case in consumer home entertainment systems).  The new Broadcom G722 vocoder chip has an audio range of 50 to 7000 Hz which is significantly better than current analog radio technology.

The bottom line is that all 800 MHz isn't all bad anymore than all digital radios are all bad.  The trick is to make sure you are dealing with fact - not fiction!