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