Government Technology

New York State Cancels Wireless Network Contract



January 15, 2009 By

Chalk up another defeat for interoperable communications networks. The New York state Office for Technology (OFT) announced Thursday it has terminated its contract with M/A-COM, the vendor building the statewide wireless public safety network.

The OFT gave M/A-COM notice for payment of a $50 million standby letter of credit, as agreed upon in the contract. Since the contract was awarded in April 2004, the state said it has spent $54 million in operating expenses for the project.

The OFT said M/A-COM failed to cure 15 of 19 deficiencies that were outlined in an Aug. 29, 2008, default letter. Problems outlined in the default notice included high failure rates for mobile radios and other portable devices; multiple site outages that rendered the network unavailable for 43 hours during the July test period; and glitches with the network's uninterrupted roaming feature that in some cases prevented the use of radios for emergency communications. According to the notice, the wireless network failed two earlier tests -- one in fall 2007 and another in spring 2008 -- before another unsuccessful assessment in July 2008.

New York state CIO Melodie Mayberry-Stewart told Government Technology during an interview on Sept. 5, 2008, that she was optimistic the problems could be fixed. Her optimism was apparently dashed on Thursday.

"We are extremely disappointed M/A-COM has failed to demonstrate the reliability of their OpenSky technology, especially its network and subscriber radios, which are the core of the system," said Mayberry-Stewart in a news release. "Per the terms of the contract, we have given M/A-COM every opportunity to remediate existing deficiencies. However, the state's testing concluded M/A-COM is unable to deliver a system that meets the needs of New York state's first responders as stated in the contract."

M/A-COM was acquired in September 2008 by Cobham, a UK-based aerospace and defense developer. Cobham representatives were unavailable for comment Thursday.

Angela Liotta, the acting media relations director of the OFT, told Government Technology that during the most recent testing period in November 2008, the network had 14.5 cumulative hours of downtime for the month, which is well above the U.S. standard of only 52.6 minutes per year. In addition, she said 29 percent of the mobile and portable radios were malfunctioning, which is well above the maximum 3 percent failure rate of a typical consumer product.

"In the consumer world, you would never buy a TV that didn't work 29 percent of the time," Liotta said.

Liotta said the radios' emergency call buttons were doing "kooky" things. Occasionally the system would send an alarm simultaneously to all users' radios, when in actuality nobody sent an alarm.

Craig Settles, a wireless industry analyst, said Thursday that the failure of the New York state wireless network is a good example of why a national public safety network won't work. By the time you start a project, the technology is usually obsolete, he said

"This New York project is pretty good example of that, because when they started the idea four years ago, radio technology was still in vogue -- and with a lot of these old guard folks it still is. It was at the cusp of its sunset because the IP and wireless technology is really where everything is going," Settles said. "It started off with an RFP for a soon-to-be obsolete or a less-than-ideal technology, and then by the time they got to the piloting of it -- not even the deployment -- they realized this isn't going to work."

The OFT said Thursday it is beginning to draw up contingency plans for the wireless public safety network.

"The state's fully committed to delivering a public safety network to our first responders," Liotta said.

 


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Comments

Patrick J. Simon    |    Commented January 17, 2009

Great article but let's all be honest here politics plays a huge part in the delay. This is why the CTO must sit at the executive level and not be sheepish about the real issues. If you do not this is exactly what will happen every time! Government moves slowly and we all know Mead's law!

Patrick J. Simon    |    Commented January 17, 2009

Great article but let's all be honest here politics plays a huge part in the delay. This is why the CTO must sit at the executive level and not be sheepish about the real issues. If you do not this is exactly what will happen every time! Government moves slowly and we all know Mead's law!

Patrick J. Simon    |    Commented January 17, 2009

Great article but let's all be honest here politics plays a huge part in the delay. This is why the CTO must sit at the executive level and not be sheepish about the real issues. If you do not this is exactly what will happen every time! Government moves slowly and we all know Mead's law!

Concerned user    |    Commented January 21, 2009

The Open Sky network is a proven technology and does work, their problem is that they came to market with an immature group of user devices that had never been tried or field tested. If they came to market with a proven and mature radio product, it is my feeling this network would have worked efficiently.

Concerned user    |    Commented January 21, 2009

The Open Sky network is a proven technology and does work, their problem is that they came to market with an immature group of user devices that had never been tried or field tested. If they came to market with a proven and mature radio product, it is my feeling this network would have worked efficiently.

Concerned user    |    Commented January 21, 2009

The Open Sky network is a proven technology and does work, their problem is that they came to market with an immature group of user devices that had never been tried or field tested. If they came to market with a proven and mature radio product, it is my feeling this network would have worked efficiently.

Anonymous    |    Commented January 28, 2009

Statewide interoperable voice and data systems are possible. The State of Ohio successfully built over 200 tower sites, a data center, and worked with local leadership to connect Homeland Security responders, for less than $300M. There should be a way to share lessons learned or best practices, so others could leverage that information for other initiatives.

Anonymous    |    Commented January 28, 2009

Statewide interoperable voice and data systems are possible. The State of Ohio successfully built over 200 tower sites, a data center, and worked with local leadership to connect Homeland Security responders, for less than $300M. There should be a way to share lessons learned or best practices, so others could leverage that information for other initiatives.

Anonymous    |    Commented January 28, 2009

Statewide interoperable voice and data systems are possible. The State of Ohio successfully built over 200 tower sites, a data center, and worked with local leadership to connect Homeland Security responders, for less than $300M. There should be a way to share lessons learned or best practices, so others could leverage that information for other initiatives.

Anonymous    |    Commented February 24, 2009

It is foolhardy to even try to compare Ohio with New York. There were many issues in NY such as urban and geological topography that OH will never have to contend with. MA/Com bit off waaaay more then they could chew when they said they could do this for NY. That being said, it's a shame it didn't work

Anonymous    |    Commented February 24, 2009

It is foolhardy to even try to compare Ohio with New York. There were many issues in NY such as urban and geological topography that OH will never have to contend with. MA/Com bit off waaaay more then they could chew when they said they could do this for NY. That being said, it's a shame it didn't work

Anonymous    |    Commented February 24, 2009

It is foolhardy to even try to compare Ohio with New York. There were many issues in NY such as urban and geological topography that OH will never have to contend with. MA/Com bit off waaaay more then they could chew when they said they could do this for NY. That being said, it's a shame it didn't work

Michael Smith    |    Commented March 16, 2009

The M/A-COM OpenSky system isn't "interoperable" - it's a completely proprietary system. Why anyone would choose a proprietary system today is beyond me. Yes, they had problems with their portable devices, but that's not all - the underlying problem is due to flaws in the fundamental system design. NY was wise to dump it and cut their losses.

Michael Smith    |    Commented March 16, 2009

The M/A-COM OpenSky system isn't "interoperable" - it's a completely proprietary system. Why anyone would choose a proprietary system today is beyond me. Yes, they had problems with their portable devices, but that's not all - the underlying problem is due to flaws in the fundamental system design. NY was wise to dump it and cut their losses.

Michael Smith    |    Commented March 16, 2009

The M/A-COM OpenSky system isn't "interoperable" - it's a completely proprietary system. Why anyone would choose a proprietary system today is beyond me. Yes, they had problems with their portable devices, but that's not all - the underlying problem is due to flaws in the fundamental system design. NY was wise to dump it and cut their losses.

Rob    |    Commented December 24, 2009

I live in Oakland County,MI. Our country decided to go with Open Sky in 2002, even though most every county in the state already uses the MPSCS P25 radio system. Anyway, Open Sky was supposed to fully operational in 2004 with all county PD/FD/EMS on the system. It's almost 2010 and only 7-8 agencies have made the switch. The system still doesn't work. Officers don't like it, coverage is a major issue. Here's some comments and issues I have been told by officers who use the Open Sky system:

-" You never know if your transmission is going through unless someone answers (no confidence in using the system)

-" If you're in a foot pursuit, the radios don't work". (wind noise distorts digital signal)

- "We are on our 3rd prep and 4th or 5th update and we still have the same problems.

- Garbled, R2D2-like audio issues

- Preps will just stop working , you won't know until someone tells you dispatch is calling

- "We are on our 3 rd mobile and 3rd prep already, same problems"

- " This is the worst radio system ever forced upon public safety"

- "Our complaints fall on deaf ears"

-" There is no coverage in county jail, and most buildings".

- "Someone is going to get hurt or worse"

- " Many fire dept chiefs forbid their firefighters to use the system on fireground because background noise makes the voice unreadable.

- Many FD/PD's have chosen not to go to the Open Sky radio system after seeing all the problems.

- All of the dispatch consoles they installed already will all have to be replaced by 2012 due to rebanding.

- "If you turn your prep down too low it will automatically go to mute and you won't receive any calls".

- The radios receive the calls at different times. If you're standing in a room with other people with radios you can't understand the call because they are not receiving at the same time.

- "If you go out of the city forget about getting a signal"

-" "Our complaints are ignored, they just tell us to move a little bit this or that way if you can't get a signal on your prep"

- One FD used it for a week and then went back to their old VHF frequencies due to poor audio issues.

-" When we tell them (County radio board) of all the problems we are having they tell us that's not possible"

- If you talk too fast or don't hold the mic close to your mouth then your message likely won't be understandable.

It's just been a real mess here. The county is already many millions overbudget and now they have to replace all dispatch consoles by 2012 and now add 12-15 more towers to try to fix dead spot issues. They don't want to listen to any complaints or problems. They are hell-bent on trying to get this system to work by any means. Surrounding counties went to the state P25 system years ago and are up and running 100%. It was funny because they would announce they were going to the state system, implement it and be fully operational and Oakland County would still be working the endless bugs out of Open Sky.

Rob    |    Commented December 24, 2009

I live in Oakland County,MI. Our country decided to go with Open Sky in 2002, even though most every county in the state already uses the MPSCS P25 radio system. Anyway, Open Sky was supposed to fully operational in 2004 with all county PD/FD/EMS on the system. It's almost 2010 and only 7-8 agencies have made the switch. The system still doesn't work. Officers don't like it, coverage is a major issue. Here's some comments and issues I have been told by officers who use the Open Sky system:

-" You never know if your transmission is going through unless someone answers (no confidence in using the system)

-" If you're in a foot pursuit, the radios don't work". (wind noise distorts digital signal)

- "We are on our 3rd prep and 4th or 5th update and we still have the same problems.

- Garbled, R2D2-like audio issues

- Preps will just stop working , you won't know until someone tells you dispatch is calling

- "We are on our 3 rd mobile and 3rd prep already, same problems"

- " This is the worst radio system ever forced upon public safety"

- "Our complaints fall on deaf ears"

-" There is no coverage in county jail, and most buildings".

- "Someone is going to get hurt or worse"

- " Many fire dept chiefs forbid their firefighters to use the system on fireground because background noise makes the voice unreadable.

- Many FD/PD's have chosen not to go to the Open Sky radio system after seeing all the problems.

- All of the dispatch consoles they installed already will all have to be replaced by 2012 due to rebanding.

- "If you turn your prep down too low it will automatically go to mute and you won't receive any calls".

- The radios receive the calls at different times. If you're standing in a room with other people with radios you can't understand the call because they are not receiving at the same time.

- "If you go out of the city forget about getting a signal"

-" "Our complaints are ignored, they just tell us to move a little bit this or that way if you can't get a signal on your prep"

- One FD used it for a week and then went back to their old VHF frequencies due to poor audio issues.

-" When we tell them (County radio board) of all the problems we are having they tell us that's not possible"

- If you talk too fast or don't hold the mic close to your mouth then your message likely won't be understandable.

It's just been a real mess here. The county is already many millions overbudget and now they have to replace all dispatch consoles by 2012 and now add 12-15 more towers to try to fix dead spot issues. They don't want to listen to any complaints or problems. They are hell-bent on trying to get this system to work by any means. Surrounding counties went to the state P25 system years ago and are up and running 100%. It was funny because they would announce they were going to the state system, implement it and be fully operational and Oakland County would still be working the endless bugs out of Open Sky.

Rob    |    Commented December 24, 2009

I live in Oakland County,MI. Our country decided to go with Open Sky in 2002, even though most every county in the state already uses the MPSCS P25 radio system. Anyway, Open Sky was supposed to fully operational in 2004 with all county PD/FD/EMS on the system. It's almost 2010 and only 7-8 agencies have made the switch. The system still doesn't work. Officers don't like it, coverage is a major issue. Here's some comments and issues I have been told by officers who use the Open Sky system:

-" You never know if your transmission is going through unless someone answers (no confidence in using the system)

-" If you're in a foot pursuit, the radios don't work". (wind noise distorts digital signal)

- "We are on our 3rd prep and 4th or 5th update and we still have the same problems.

- Garbled, R2D2-like audio issues

- Preps will just stop working , you won't know until someone tells you dispatch is calling

- "We are on our 3 rd mobile and 3rd prep already, same problems"

- " This is the worst radio system ever forced upon public safety"

- "Our complaints fall on deaf ears"

-" There is no coverage in county jail, and most buildings".

- "Someone is going to get hurt or worse"

- " Many fire dept chiefs forbid their firefighters to use the system on fireground because background noise makes the voice unreadable.

- Many FD/PD's have chosen not to go to the Open Sky radio system after seeing all the problems.

- All of the dispatch consoles they installed already will all have to be replaced by 2012 due to rebanding.

- "If you turn your prep down too low it will automatically go to mute and you won't receive any calls".

- The radios receive the calls at different times. If you're standing in a room with other people with radios you can't understand the call because they are not receiving at the same time.

- "If you go out of the city forget about getting a signal"

-" "Our complaints are ignored, they just tell us to move a little bit this or that way if you can't get a signal on your prep"

- One FD used it for a week and then went back to their old VHF frequencies due to poor audio issues.

-" When we tell them (County radio board) of all the problems we are having they tell us that's not possible"

- If you talk too fast or don't hold the mic close to your mouth then your message likely won't be understandable.

It's just been a real mess here. The county is already many millions overbudget and now they have to replace all dispatch consoles by 2012 and now add 12-15 more towers to try to fix dead spot issues. They don't want to listen to any complaints or problems. They are hell-bent on trying to get this system to work by any means. Surrounding counties went to the state P25 system years ago and are up and running 100%. It was funny because they would announce they were going to the state system, implement it and be fully operational and Oakland County would still be working the endless bugs out of Open Sky.


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