July 12, 2010 By Karen Wilkinson
In what will be an incremental, 10-year-overhaul of its internal public safety and service communications, Monroe County, N.Y., has contracted with Harris Corp. to migrate its legacy systems to a trunked radio system.
"This project ultimately will unite all of Monroe County's public service and safety agencies under a single, modern digital communication system," Harris RF Communications Group President Dana Mehnert said in a press release.
As part of the county's strategic plan and to meet the FCC's 700 MHz public safety broadband wireless network goal, the Rochester-based county will eventually have all its agencies on one "talk group" instead of varying frequencies. The trunked emergency radio communications system and terminal equipment will support up to 25,000 public safety and service users in the county.
"It will make the ease of communications between agencies much simpler - in real time, on demand, when needed and when authorized," Monroe County Public Safety Director Stephen Bowman told Government Technology.
The $30 million project will give the county "an advanced communication solution with the improved communications capability, enhanced capacity and regional interoperability important for first responders," a Harris Corp. release on the announcement said. "Monroe County will have an advanced communication solution with the improved communications capability, enhanced capacity and regional interoperability important for first responders."
The vendor's Voice, Interoperability, Data and Access network platform will provide the county a unified IP-based voice and data communication system based on industry standards, the company said. Portable mobile radios will provide full multimode interoperability for users across the entire VHF, UHF, 700 and 800 MHz spectrum.
"The Unity radio will interoperate directly with a number of systems in the Monroe County area including the county's existing UHF P25 conventional law enforcement system, the VHF fire services system and the UHF public service system," the release said. "The Unity also enables communication interoperability with users in neighboring counties and with state or federal users, whether they operate VHF, UHF, 700/800 MHz, analog or P25 radios."
Currently on different legacy systems, Monroe County's agencies will switch over in stages -- when they reach their life expectancy, they will migrate to the new system, Bowman said. "Many other systems try to move everyone at the same time, but that's very daunting," he said. "It will be a gradual migration from existing legacy systems over time to the new trunked radio system."
Challenges of such an overhaul include maintaining operations during the switches. "The new system will reuse some existing towers and backhaul, but the challenge is to keep existing systems operating while systems go up, and move to the new system at the same time," Bowman said.
But the benefits will be worth it, he said. All public safety and service entities will have the ability to communicate on demand, public safety's communications will be merged and will provide the county the flexibility it doesn't have today, Bowman said.