Saturday, June 30, 2012

700 MHz Interoperability Program Shut Down!

Those of us who got past the third grade sometimes see things more clearly than "the experts".  Case in point - the proposed 700 MHz nationwide public safety network, or more simply known as The Great Boondoogle!

It goes something like this:  Hey boys and girls, we have this great need for cops in Alabama to be able to talk to firemen in Wisconsin!  Third grader question: Why?  Answer by experts: Because we have this great new high speed technology called LTE that combines the benefits of voice, data, and video!  Third  grader question: Have you got the money to pay for it?  Expert response:  No, but we can get it by borrowing money from China, and then letting them build it for us.

Third grader:  Why don't you just use the systems being made available from private network carriers?  Wouldn't that be less expensive and more effective? Expert response: Nah, we need to do our own thing!  Third grader: I think that's stupid!  Expert response:  Let me look into that.  I'll get back to you!

Now it appears that there may be a chance for common sense after all.  The attached FEMA Internal Briefing may be the tip of the iceberg.  The 700 MHz nationwide broadband network is on hold.  Click here to read the full document. And that's not all!  For the first time ever, the FEMA fire grant program is finally applying some realistic requirements to the 2012 Assistance to Firefighter communications projects.  We'll be telling you more about this over the next few days.  For now, we can give you a little advice.  Those of you who think you can ignore the rules for procuring P25 open standard equipment, stay tuned. YOU are in for a surprise that you're not going to like!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Special news for church, institutional, and school users!

We have just completed a mini-catalog of our most popular wireless products for use by church, institutional, and school users.  We hope that this new catalog will make it easier to find products of interest to create a safer, more efficient, and cost effective means of utilizing wireless products and services to the maximum benefit.

This new mini-catalog has direct links to our web store if you wish to order on line as well as reference links for more detailed information.  This catalog replaces all earlier information on our church products as well as individual web pages used in the past that are no longer active.

Whatever your need may be in church wireless, we've got it - security radios, parent paging, parking lot call boxes, assistive listening devices, personal safety systems, classroom communications, and much, much more.  Check out our new mini-catalog by clicking here.  You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy golfers make happy golf course managers!

Short range tactical communications is a semi-military term applying to direct person-to-person communications for limited range communications.  A good example of this is a golf course where the pro shop manger needs a golf cart ready and at the door for golfer guests.

Cell phones are slow (and expensive). Traditional 2-way radios generally are not cost effective.  Shouting doesn't work, neither does running and/or searching.  So the question is, what DOES work?

We have a neat solution that doesn't cost much money and it is perfect for local area communications at golf courses, restaurants, doctor’s offices, and a host of uses that we haven’t even thought of.  Case in point, we had visitors this week from Homeland Security and the FBI and they happened to notice the neat little radios that we sell to golf courses.  As it turns out, they saw an application we had never considered.  So much for our market research…..

We have put together a rather comprehensive package for golf course management that may be of interest to others with short range tactical communications needs.  You can check it out by clicking here!  Regardless of what you do, we think you will find it be of interest if you have a need to communicate with others – quickly, reliably and inexpensively. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Get Safety, Efficiency, and Savings with Plant Wireless systems by Falcon Direct!

Our new airtime free plant wireless systems can improve safety, increase efficiency, and save money!  If you have a communications need in a manufacturing plant, logistics center, or administrative complex; Falcon Direct has a wireless solution just for YOU!

We offer efficient and affordable personal and fixed station 2-way repeaters as well as easily installed repeaters to extend range.  Many of our products can be operated (legally) without an FCC license and the uses are limited only by your imagination!

Need to extend your PA system to a remote building?  We can do it with no wires or trenching and have the job completed before lunch.  We can even provide portable radios with the ability to access the  PA system from anywhere in the plant area!

Need to know when there is a problem on the production line?  Get help at the push of a button.  No wires required!  Need to monitor HVAC or automated equipment for failures?  Not a problem!  How about providing controlled access for gates or loading dock?  Yep, we do that do.  Want to know more?  Click here!

Monday, June 11, 2012

AFG Grant Application Period Closes Soon!

July 6, 2012 is the last day that fire and rescue departments can apply for FEMA grant assistance to upgrade communications systems to comply with FCC, DHS, FEMA, NFPA, OSHA and SAFECOM standards.

The FCC says you must be narrow band compliant by the end of 2012.  DHS says you should have interoperable channels installed in your radios.  Both NFPA and OSHA say that your personnel should have hearing protection, and SAFECOM says that all communications equipment should be "standards" based (currently defined as meaning analog or P25 digital).

The good news is that the AFG funding program can pay for helping you comply with these requirements.  You have essentially three choices if you decide to apply for a communications grant:

Apply for a grant to meet minimum compliance based on continuation of analog technology which means paying for narrow banding and FCC licensing fees if applicable.  Any radios that cannot be narrow banded will have to be replaced or taken out of service.  If additional repeaters are required, they can be included, and it wouldn't hurt to ask for headset protection for personnel in noisy vehicles or operating pumps that exceed OSHA noise level standards.  Since the request would be relatively small, the chances for approval should be good.

Your second option would be to apply for an individual department upgrade to digital communications - not MotoTRBO, and not NEXEDGE.  There is only one approved digital standard and that is P25!  Funding for 2012 has been drastically reduced, in particular for rural volunteer fire departments so you want leave out the bells and whistles. 

The third option is to apply for  a regional grant based on either analog or P25 digital.  We don't think this is a good year to apply for a regional grant.  The option is open, but not recommended. Regional grants will be closely scrutinized to avoid some of the mistakes of the past several years.  If you do decide to go for P25 digital, you need to get the best value for the money spent, and that doesn't mean going for a proprietary centralized trunking system (Click here for more information).

As a vendor, we can help you.  We can't prepare your grant application but for those that need budgetary prices on analog equipment, we have prepared a free planning guide which is available at

We have extensive information available for P25 on our Blog site, and we have some recommendations for the best portable and mobile based on features, performance, warranty, size/weight, reliability, and price.  The best selection for a P25 portable is the American made KNG T2 series priced at just $1,178.  Nothing else even comes close!   We also offer the Midland STP portable for $995 which is an outstanding value, but our overall best recommendation for P25 portables is the KNG T2 by Relm Wireless.

As far as P25 mobiles are concerned, Midland is our preferred choice.  At $1,195, nothing else offers the power (50 watts) keypad programming and proven reliability at anywhere near the cost.  

As for repeaters, it is a toss up between the ICOM Eclipse2 or Midland.  Both repeaters are in a league by themselves!  For additional information on our top rated P25 products, please visit

The grant submission period closes on July 6th which means you have less than 30 days to get your project completed and submitted.  If we can be of service in any way, please give us a call at 205.854.2611.  The Falcon Team - At your service!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Don't forget to include pagers on your AFG application!

Most pagers can not be modified for narrow band operation.  The truth is that they don't need to be!  There is no requirement to narrow band receivers; only transmitters!  So what happens if you don't narrow band your pagers?

The answer is basically nothing!  You won't be able to receive as well as you did when the associated transmitter was operating at full 25 kHz bandwidth. There is no technical reason to change to narrow band EXCEPT to reduce interference from other users on the "new" narrow band channels.  

Leaving your pagers on wide band potentially exposes you to three times more interference if you don't narrow band your receiver, but that often is not a problem in rural areas.  So the question is, do you really have to narrow band your pagers from a practical standpoint?  The answer is NO!

However, there are some really good reasons to upgrade to a new pager such as the new WatchDog M and LT Series.  There are now two different models of the WatchDog.  One of them is just right for you and they can literally pay for themselves by eliminating high maintenance cost (both models are covered by a five year warranty!).  Better yet, you'll receive your calls.  We know that Minitor V users will find this to be a pleasant surprise! 

Click here for more information or if you need some assistance in preparing your 2012 AFG application for communications, give us a call at 205.854.2611 or toll free at 800.489.2611.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

New low cost radio controller now available!

We are already seeing the effects of narrow banding.  There IS a reduction in operating range!  Depending on the condition of the antenna system and location, the loss is reported to be ranging from 5 to 20% with portable talk-back range being the most serious issue.

In many cases, the solution will be to add additional repeaters, but the problem doesn't stop there.  At the dispatch center, the operator consoles have to be updated or replaced which can often cost more than the repeater!  Fortunately, there is a solution, actually two!  

One solution is to replace older mobiles that can not be narrow banded with our new TM8000 mobile that comes equipped with a long range wireless speaker microphone. These devices allow you to talk at distances of up to several hundred feet away from the vehicle with the full power of the mobile in the palm of your hand!  You can read more about the TM8000 by clicking here.  More BIG news is what we have developed for use at the dispatch center!

Our new Controller II is not much larger than a standard desk telephone, yet is has the capability of controlling up to TEN radios - VHF, UHF, or even 800 MHz! Not only is the Controller II a super space saver, it is AFFORDABLE.  You can own a brand new Controller II for less that the cost of maintenance on a typical "console".

Controller II is flexible and expandable.  A low cost option is available that offers the ability to display the user name whenever a radio transmits on the system.  This option (shown with terminal above) is fully compatible with the popular MDC-1200 user ID function available in most public safety radios.  Another option allows your operators to send 2-tone pages to monitor type pagers and 2-way radios with page alert capability.

Controller II can be included as a part of a fire department application for a 2012 FEMA grant.  The AFG application period opens on June 11, and closes on July 6th.  If you would like to include the Controller II in your grant application, or if you need assistance in your communications planning, just drop us an email to or call us at 205.854.2611.

This will be your last chance to get grant money for narrow banding.  You need to be taking action NOW to meet the new requirements.  At a recent Interoperability Summit hosted by the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, an FCC representative made it very clear that the FCC is serious about the issue of narrow banding.  The fines can be as much as $6,000 PER TRANSMISSION for transmitting in the wide band mode after December 31, 2012.    If you need some help in your narrow band planning, let us know.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A special message for 2-way repeater owners

  The cost of lightning damage is increasing every day as our changing weather patterns produce more intense storms of all types.  Many, if not most, of those storms are accompanied by lightning.  Those of us in the communications business recognize that our antennas often serve as a community lightning rod as they draw down lightning that might otherwise go to a tree.

The incredible thing is that virtually every tower site I see is not properly grounded.  Presumably this may be the result of improper planning, inadequate budgets or lack of training by both the user and the installer.  It doesn't have to be that way.

Many years ago an excellent book was published on the subject of lightning protection.  It is a worthwhile read for wireless communications technicians as well as users.  It is available on line by clicking here. Check it out.  It could save you a LOT of money!  There are other things we can tell you about that can save you money including the availability of a brand new coaxial cable lightning protector.  Call us anytime at 800.489.2611.

Monday, June 4, 2012

AFG 2012 Program Overview

After attending the 2012 AFG workshop, reviewing all available guidance material plus numerous phone conversations with DHS, my perception of the governance applicable to the 2012 AFG program is as follows:

Grant application period opens June 11, 2012 and closes on July 6, 2012.

Communications applications will be based on standards based equipment.  By definition, I read this to mean analog or P25 digital, nothing else including MotoTRBO or NEXEDGE which are NOT standards based technologies.

Applicants may apply for non-P25 digital equipment if compelling reasons are clearly stated which outline the need for this action.  If approved, the applicant is responsible for updating to P25 if and when directed to do so by FEMA at the APPLICANTS expense.  This provision also applies to applications approved in the 2010 and 2011 grant application periods.

Any equipment acquired with FEMA funds under the AFG program must be non-proprietary.  This means than any digital trunked repeater system using centralized control must be open to multiple vendors.  This means ONLY P25 digital  or LTR analog trunking meets the requirements for open architecture. 

Environmental and historical preservation requirements as well as FCC frequency planning should be done BEFORE grant approval.

All applications must be in compliance with the applicable Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP) subject to review by the designated Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Point of Contact (POC) for your State.

All radios purchased should have sufficient channel capacity to include programming of interoperable frequencies as defined by the applicable State Interoperability Field Operations Guide.  In Alabama, these frequencies are listed on pages 32 through 85 of the ALA-FOG.

Applicants considering the use of a trunked digital P25 radio system should be aware of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements for shared channel use of analog and digital systems.  In the case of MotoTRBO VHF systems, power emissions are limited to no more than 10 watts Effective Radiated Power (ERP) and digital data (GPS, Messaging, etc.) are not authorized.  For both VHF and UHF, analog voice communications have priority over data.  Every effort should be made to acquire FB8 channels for ANY digital trunked radio system BEFORE applying for a grant based on digital trunking technology.

If in doubt, call your Regional FEMA representative or the AFG Helpline BEFORE you begin preparation of your grant application.  Burch Falkner - At your Service!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hytera X1e now available in the USA!

The Hytera X-1e is super thin (just 7/10ths of an inch thick) and light (approximately 7 ounces), yet it is fully compatible with the worldwide DMR technical standard used by Hytera and Motorola.

The X-1e combines structural rigidity and IP67 water submersible capability plus versatile functionalities and refined design. Accessories can easily be connected via Bluetooth or an open USB interface allowing application development, and a built-in GPS module is included to support GIS applications. Multiple IP functionalities are available when the radio is connected to a PC, and upgradable firmware allows new features to be added to the radio.

Hospital and public safety users will be pleased to know that the X-1 is available with a high level 256 bit Advanced Encryption System (AES) for private communications capability. It is the perfect covert communicator!

The X1e supports both analog and DMR operating modes, with a power output of 5 watts in VHF or 4 watts for UHF. A vibrating alert function can alert you in high noise level zones or privately as desired. 

Want to know more about the X-1e? Check out Want to know how easily the X-1e can be integrated into your existing 2-way radio system? Give us a call at 205.854.2611 or email You'll be glad you did!