Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Latest FCC News on VHF Digital Use

Most of our readers know that FCC Coordinators recently placed a 10 watt Effective Power Limitation (ERP) on TDMA base/repeater station digital radios (i.e. MotoTRBO and Hytera plus a couple of lesser contenders).  

Within the last week new policies have been submitted by the frequency coordinators to the FCC to apply restrictions on all VHF radios coordinated in the Public Safety Frequency Pool operating in the TDMA digital mode. These new policies  apparently could include P25 systems operating on TDMA! We should be hearing more about this in the near future. 

Or, in engineering bureaucratic double speak…….

For Base/Repeater operations:

1) You must have 250 km (155 miles) protection from your proposed base station antenna to existing co-channel and 7.5 kHz adjacent channel incumbent mobile licensees;

2) Assume an incumbent mobile receiver antenna height equal to the transmitter antenna height as licensed on incumbents granted license or pending application

3)   If a receiver antenna height cannot be inferred from step 2, then a receive antenna height of 60 meters (196 feet) will be assumed;

4)   Perform a LongleyRice propagation study at 50%, 50%, 50% (time location, probability) for proposed digital system; and,

5) A signal level of -110 dBm or greater at the incumbent site will cause the proposed sttion to fail the protection standard.

Or, in layman’s language as understood by this writer…….

If you are a public safety user contemplating a move to digital – ANY digital TDMA (not FDMA which is offered by ICOM and Kenwood) system, conventional or trunked involving a base or repeater station, you must obtain coordination for the proposed frequency(s) to be used based on that frequency being unused  within a radius of 155 miles in all directions as well as all mobile users on adjacent channels within 7.5 kHz.

This is based on the assumption that the incumbent (the guy who already has a license for analog operation) is licensed for an antenna height equal to the height of your base or repeater station.  If you can’t confirm what the incumbents station antenna height is, then a height of 196 feet will be assumed. 

You have the option of performing a propagation study AND demonstrating that you will not produce a signal level of -110 dBm at the incumbent (the guy who has an analog OR digital license) receiver site.  

The typical receiver sensitivity for 12 db sinad is -119dbm. This is 9 db below what the new coordination standards will allow. Thus the FCC is saying that at the antenna of the existing user that you might interfere with, the maximum level from your new digital radio must be no stronger than roughly 8 times the minimum signal a typical receiver can receive.

Bottom line translation for any public safety user planning to go VHF digital……. 

Talk to the frequency coordinator of your choice before signing up to purchase any VHF wide area TDMA radio system or upgrade.  Or better yet, talk to us.  You can call us at 205.854.2611 for the straight story, always!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

700 MHz Update for Alabama Public Safety Users

Alabama's plans for building out the long awaited 700 MHz interoperable communications system is moving right along.  The system build out is taking the traditional pattern of building from the gulf coast, northward with the initial emphasis on serving the major metropolitan areas. The typical reasons for moving to 700 MHz are generally stated as improving interoperability, communications coverage, and enhanced capabilities.

A recent article relating to the installation of a 700 MHz system in Madison County Alabama states the benefits generally associated with the benefits of 700 MHz.  There are a few things the article left out (such as cost), but that is a topic for another day.  Suffice if for now to say that there is a lot of interest in 700 MHz at this time.

The current focus  of the Alabama Department of Homeland Security seems to be on sharing information with State agencies and government users in the major metro areas with equipment presentations apparently being limited to a single manufacturer.  Unfortunately, the scarcity of information available to the public is causing some confusion, and for that matter, even some of the agencies the proposed network is supposed to serve.

For the sake of clarification, it should be noted that there is more than one 700 MHz equipment supplier.  It should be further noted that radios costing thousands of dollars each are generally beyond the reach of smaller public safety agencies, and for that matter outside the budgetary constraints of most state agencies, and all but a very few county or municipal users.

Having said that, the point being made to Alabama public safety users is this.  First, you have a choice.  You are not limited to purchasing from a single supplier, unless the system is being configured in such a way that only one brand of equipment is supported.  In that case, as a taxpayer, you are entitled to an explanation from those responsible for system planning as to why they have chosen sole source technology that constrains the benefits of competitive bidding and good stewardship of taxpayer dollars. For a good example of what can happen when a system is built based on a proprietary standard, click here.

Assuming that the system is based on open architecture, which it should be, you should obtain the operating specifications to allow review of the offerings of multiple vendors and choose the brand, model, and vendor of your choice.  There are several vendors approved for 700 MHz interoperable radio equipment on the Alabama State Contract and many more on the Federal GSA contract.

The second point is that you don't have to purchase all new 700 MHz equipment to be a part of the network.  You can purchase, or continue using, the radios of your choice and connect to the 700 MHz network with a one time investment of just $7,500.  The Dadeville Fire Department has one of these units which offers interoperability on 700 MHz, 450 MHz, and 150 MHz using the Federal P25 operating standard.  Click here for more information.

The final thing to remember that that you have a voice in the decisions that will be made in your area.  There is a choice, actually multiple choices.  We encourage you to use them.  You can start by calling us for more information at 205.854.2611 or drop us an email to

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Narrow Band Questions - Still going around in circles?

As we get closer to the end of the year, two of the more frequent questions (and the answers) are worth sharing.  The first is Do I have to modify my license for narrow band, or do I just narrow band upgrade my equipment?

The answer is that you DO have to upgrade your license.  You can do it yourself and waste a lot of time, or pay an expert to do it for you.  We recommend having it done by Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA).  If they do the work, it costs you $260 for non-governmental licensees or $125 for governmental users. If you prefer to do the work yourself, click here for instructions.

You will need to complete a simple one page form, available by clicking here. As you will note, non-governmental users can choose to continue operating in the analog mode, or upgrade to either DMR digital (the format used for Hytera and MotoTRBO) or NXDN digital (the format used for ICOM and Kenwood) and be licensed for BOTH analog and digital.  P25 digital is also available but rarely chosen for commercial use.

As a commercial user, we recommend requesting both analog and digital operating capability, even if you don't have immediate plans to upgrade to digital. Specifically, if you are upgrading a VHF system, we recommend that you check the 4K00F1E for ICOM and Kenwood radios.  If you are upgrading a UHF system, we recommend that you select the 7K60FXE for Hytera and MotoTRBO radios.

You will note that public safety users pay less, first because they are exempt for payment of FCC fees.  In reality, a public safety user will pay MORE for any digital upgrade, the reason being the additional cost of third party coordinators. You can call EWA for a specific quote. 

The second question is Will upgrading from 50 to 100 watts on my base or repeater station make up for the loss I will experience by narrow banding? The answer is YES for talk out range from the station and NO for mobiles talking back.  Since a new 100 watt repeater will cost between $4,000 and $7,000, we think the better alternative would be to upgrade to a 50 watt analog/digital repeater at a typical cost of around $1,500 and use the savings to begin your migration to digital radios.

A good quality digital radio can operate in both analog and digital modes.  The cost is around $500 each.  This means you could replace your base or repeater station and have enough money left over to purchase your first five to ten digital radios.

The question often comes up as to whether adding a 100 watt linear power supply to an existing base or repeater radio is a good idea.  Generally speaking, a good quality amplifier and associate power supply will cost $1,500 to $2,000.As mentioned earlier, this only helps in one direction whereas a 50 watt digital base radio talking to a 50 watt digital mobile radio is essentially comparable to a 100 watt analog station talking to a 100 watt analog mobile.  Clearly, we favor the upgrade to digital, both from the viewpoint of performance, features, and cost.

Want to prove it out for yourself?  Give us a call to arrange a live trial.  Details available on request.  Just give us a call at 205.854.2611 or drop us an email to

FEMA Community Resilience Grant Update

On October 26, 2012, at 11:59 PM, the 2012 FEMA Community Resilience Challenge Grant opportunity closed.  This was a REALLY fast track grant - Written in September,  with the only known announcement buried away on an AFG web page, it was released on October 9th and closed on October 26th.  

We've never seen a grant quite like this one - administered by FEMA, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, and reviewed by The Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Foundation, the grant offered up to $35,000 to applicants submitting conceptual plans for emergency preparedness and recovery - a classic example of working together. We took it a step further!

On October 18th. we made an announcement on our Blog, and on this same date sent a targeted email to over 1000 of our friends and customers that we thought would be interested. Approximately 20% reviewed the material and approximately 100 choose to work with us in applying for the grant.  We now have applications pending in over 90% of all Alabama counties as well as in Mississippi, Texas and elsewhere.  

To those that responded and chose to allow us to assist in developing worthwhile plans - we thank you!  The applicants included Ambulance Services, County Commissions, Fire Departments, E911 and EMA organizations, Law Enforcement agencies at both the county and municipal levels, Municipalities & Townships, Schools and Universities.

While we are hopeful that all these applications will be funded, we thought it would be worthwhile to share an overview of the six basic programs for those who may wish to undertake such projects at the local community level (primarily paid for by business and institutional participants).  The six programs are as follows:

SafeCampus - An outdoor wireless PA system directly controlled by 2-way radio. Especially well suited for universities.  Outdoor call boxes, and wireless call buttons can be included as well as new digital 2-way radios with both voice and text messaging capability.

SafeCommunities - A cooperative partnership between business and institutions and law enforcement based on the use of wireless communications in times of emergency when traditional phones (either wired, cellular or both) and/or AC electrical power services are not usable.

SafePlaces - A program involving the placement of low cost emergency one-way wireless call boxes in places where large numbers of people congregate or in facilities where immediate aid is required.  This program is generally sponsored by emergency aid providers of on-scene assistance and/or transportation.

SafeSchools - Designed for multi-school districts to provide a private digital administrative wireless communications system between the superintendents office, the transportation shop, and all schools.  Each school is assigned six personal 2-way radios for administrative, housekeeping, maintenance, and security use.

SafeTran - A state of the art school bus transportation system with all buses equipped with vehicular radios capable of communicating both voice and text modes plus a GPS locator and emergency call button

 If you have an interest in any of these systems, just drop us an email to or call us at 205.854.2611.  And once again, our very special thanks to those who chose to work with us in developing these programs.  Your contributions will go a long way toward helping others.  Thank you!

January 2013 Update - FEMA has announced that applicants for this grant should be receiving information on award status in February 2013. The FEMA 2012 Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) programs awards are currently in progress as of mid January 2013.The FEMA Fire Prevention and Safety  (PF&S) Program closes on January 18th 2013. 

We will keep you advised of other grant program announcements if you will sign up to receive our Blogs (See below right)  and/or eNewsletters

Saturday, October 20, 2012

New DoorCallers Visitor Announcement Systems!

Falcon Direct is pleased to announce our second generation of wireless door announcement and wireless intercom systems.  DoorCall 1, shown at the far right is a push button activated wireless paging system first used by the Argo Alabama Fire Department to allow visitors to make their presence known.

When the call button is pushed, a tone page alert is transmitted directly to the fire pagers worn by department members on and around the premises or optionally to a receiver connected to the building PA system.  Following an alert tone, all users hear the message - Visitor at door.  The DoorCall 1 (shown at the left in the picture above) replaced an existing intercom system that didn't work out since it required personnel to be at a fixed location to hear the intercom. Now they can be anywhere on the premises!  Priced at just $595, DoorCall 1 is easily installed by most users.

DoorCall 2  has 2-way capability.  The visitor can actually speak to a person inside the building and they can speak to the visitor.  This unit provides capabilities similar to a traditional wireless call box, but at much less cost - $795 to be specific. DoorCall 2 is ideal for a variety of applications including apartment managers, church offices, day care centers, fire stations, and schools.

Additional information is available by clicking here or by calling 205.854.2611, or dropping us an email to

Sunday, October 7, 2012

America's Best Mobile Tracking GPS System!

Forget everything you know, or ever knew, about GPS vehicle tracking!  The new OBD-X5 system changes everything!  If your vehicle was produced after 1995, the chances are that the new OBD-X5 will plug right into your vehicle diagnostics connector port (Click here for more information) and begin providing instant tracking information via a password protected Internet portal from your PC, SmartPhone, or Tablet!

With this incredible device, you will know where your vehicles are, what they are doing and even   how much gas they have left in the tank. You'll even get an email when the vehicle travels outside an assigned area or travels at excessive speeds!  And, there will be no delays in reporting since all information is updated every 10 seconds!  There is no wiring and no installation.  The OBD-X5 just plugs in!  Click here to see how simple it is to install!

Are you ready for the price?  Just $199!  Click here for product specifications! You pay just $29.95 monthly for unlimited nationwide use with monitoring capability from virtually anything that will connect to the Internet!  You can get a live view at any time, plus daily activity reports along with email out of area and excessive speed alerts.  The OBD-X5 can quickly be moved from one vehicle to another for first class administrative control at minimal expense.

The OBD-X5 is ideal for fleet administrators or for use in vehicles with high legal risk.  Best of all, you pay only when you need it.  You pay just $19.95 for activation and you can discontinue service at any time.  Reactivate when needed.  Want to see how it works?  Click here to see where I am and what I am doing right now!  When you are ready to try an OBD- X5 in a single vehicle, for random use in multiple vehicles, or equipping an entire fleet, just give us a call at 800.489.2611 or drop us an email to  You'll be glad you did!

Friday, October 5, 2012

New 50 watt VHF or UHF repeater Introductory priced at just $995!

Got an old repeater that won't narrow band?  Replace it with the new Hytera RD982-AN for just $995.  Just disconnect the existing duplexer and power supply from your old repeater, slide the new 50 watt narrow band RD982-AN in it's place and you are good to go for at least the next decade!

BTW, that 50 watt power rating is applicable to your choice of a VHF or UHF model.  Now, here's some more good news.  You can upgrade to digital when you wish - not just any digital, but DMR digital!.  That's the technical platform used by MotoTRBO.  The RD982 digital model is fully compatible with MotoTRBO mobiles and portables as well as the Harris Momentum and the Vertex VXD Series.  When used with Hytera mobiles and portables, you get our exclusive DoubleTalker two channel TRUNKING capability for FREE!

When you are ready to upgrade to DMR, you'll pay just $595 for a firmware modification that can be done at your location!  Want more information?  Click here for a brochure or call us at 800.489.2611.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

AFG Grant News

The first AFG grants for the 2012 application period are starting to come through! As you know, the guidelines this year call for P25.

What many applicants don't realize is that there are two types of P25 equipment. Conventional, with prices starting under $1,000 and trunking which is MUCH more expensive. If you contemplate the purchase of TRUNKING radios, we invite you to check out our on-line catalog by clicking here. If you are approved for non-trunking P25 radios, give us a call at 800.489.2611 or drop us an email to You'll be glad you did!