It is hard to find a public safety communications system with
100% coverage -- in real world conditions it just isn't possible. But many
jurisdictions can't even achieve 50% coverage because of challenging terrain and
limited budget. And sometimes it seems the area of poor coverage is right where
it is particularly needed!
The problem is with physics; the physics of radio waves in particular. Humans have settled in sheltered locations for thousands of years: in valleys, under trees in forests, alongside rivers. Radio waves work best when operating to or from a high point. As a result, in mountains or even low hills, the location of an incident is often in a location that people congregate (e.g. town, campground, housing) does not have clear line of sight for radio waves to travel to a mountain top (or tower) where the repeater (or base station) is located.
The solution deployed since the 1960s has been to add towers until good (or even just "adequate") coverage is achieved. This solution is limited by the relatively high cost of towers, particularly in rural and wilderness terrain, ranging from 100's of thousands of dollars even to a million, including the cost of leased lines and/or microwave links, for each tower.
Many rural counties and cities, and even states, cannot afford this type of infrastructure.
IP Radio As Part Of The Solution
IP Radio can help improve the geographic coverage of an existing radio system, or help you plan for your new system.
With the convergence of computer networks and traditional RF radios into IP Radio, the cost of adding additional high-point base stations and/or repeaters has dropped dramatically. In fact, we find that the cost of the design analysis, engineering studies for each additional radio configured the traditional way
can rival the cost of the additional radio equipment.
Using IP Radio we can put up an additional high-point transmitter to expand your coverage area for as little as $20,000 (assuming the physical tower and associated facilities already exist). This is roughly a magnitude (10x) less expensive than using the older, legacy technology.
How do we do it? First, we use IP Radio as an architecture for the network, rather than traditional (and often proprietary) hardware controllers. We do not replace the existing network structure and controllers for the existing radio equipment, but we overlay the IP Radio architecture as a sort of “umbrella” over the legacy equipment in order to provide additional coverage.
Second, we use the “remote base” concept, rather than a repeater, whenever feasible. This reduces complexity at the tower site, which lowers cost and increases survivability (less complicated solutions generally fare better in disasters).
Third, the IP Radio gives us control of the radio equipment (on/off, channel selection, etc.) as well as a method of providing the audio (both transmit and receive) back to the dispatch point.
While a number of factors can erode the cost savings and push the number up from $20,000 per site, in at least 80% of the systems we see the worst case is still less than half the cost of a traditionally designed tower site with analog links.
Increased coverage may be more attainable than you have been told, and not require a large federal grant and/or a bond measure to finance. Contact us for an evaluation of your system.
One More Thing To Worry About...
Think you’re fine as you are? You may be unaware of an impending change that will actually reduce your existing coverage at some point in the next 6 years.
Mandatory narrowbanding has the unfortunate side effect of reducing the effective reach of your current mountain-top or building-top transmitters. Some experts estimate that the reduction can be as high as 30% of your current coverage.
Read about our thoughts on
narrowbanding and be sure to include the reduced coverage from narrowband operations as you make your plans over the next several years.
Request more information on this solution