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Preview: Doug Chandler's Wireless Weblog

Doug Chandler's Wireless Weblog



Novice blogger; Guru Radio Dude.



Last Build Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2006 05:40:23 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2006 Doug Chandler
 




Tue, 12 Sep 2006 05:34:24 GMT

TIC Plan Exercise

On August 24, 2006, the State of Utah fulfilled it's requirement to exercise it's Tactical Interoperable Communication Plan (TIC-Plan).  Homeland Security has pre-defined a number of cities as "Urban Areas".  In order to continue eligibility for Homeland Security grant funding for 2006, each state with one of these Urban Areas was required to write a TIC Plan.  Any state without a pre-defined 'Urban Area' was to identify their own.  Utah selected Salt Lake County.  After making the May 2006 deadline, we were informed that in order to be eligible for 2007 funding, we were required to complete a Full Scale Exercise of the TIC Plan.

The exercise was highly successful for many reasons, but the most contributing factor has been the support and participation of people who care about public safety communication.  I was priviledged to attend a conference in Washington this last May where Secretary Chertoff was the keynote speaker.  Chertoff pointed out something that I think those of us in the industry are quick to forget.  Interoperability is about people, not technology. I think we too often lose focus on the ultimate goal of communication when we turn solely to technology and the vendors that peddle it to solve our problems.





Tue, 10 Jan 2006 18:58:43 GMT

Establishing a New Communications Site

Last July, several local, state, and federal agencies met with the Forest Service to discuss a proposal to establish a new communications facility in Kane County.  The proposed site would be located on Forest Service property, in the vicinity of both Bryce Canyon National Park, and the Grand Staircase National Monument.  We finally received a contract from the Forest Service in December. The document required $15,000 to cover the Environmental Assessment (EA).  We quickly identified the funding and notified the Forest Service to move ahead as soon as possible.  We were then notified that the cost would really be $30,000, and we would have to do our own visual assessments and 2' topographic map layout. 

I recognize that communication sites are not necessarily a beautiful addition to the natural vista of the forest (unless you're a wireless geek like me), but it also strikes me as unethical to allow public access to hike and explore in these remote areas, while simultaneously ensuring that emergency public safety communications cannot occur when someone gets hurt or lost.  We can (and do) take steps to ensure the impact is as minimal as possible when we establish communication sites, but some level of impact must be made.  Sites must be high and as unobstructed as possible to provide useable coverage. 

In this case, the Forest Service seems to be doing everything it can to stop the proposed site from happening, rather than looking at all options and weighing the alternatives.  Most of the 100+ communications sites that exist around this state are on Forest Service or BLM property.  I've never been involved with a more negative response to a proposed request than this one.  It will be interesting to see how much higher the price creeps as we move forward.

 





Sat, 22 Jan 2005 05:09:59 GMT

FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell resigned today. He was definitely the most active FCC chairman that I've seen in my brief 20 years of radio experience.

 

In the UWIN Technology Steering Committee meeting today, it became apparent to me that we frequently spend our time arguing over technologies (trunking vs conventional) and frequencies (150 MHz vs 700 MHz vs 800 MHz), when we should be concentrating on funding.  In 1993, Governor Leavitt formed a task force to address public safety radio interoperability issues in Utah. It was determined that all public safety agencies should move to a single frequency spectrum, and that spectrum should be 800MHz.  The Utah Communications Agency Network (UCAN) was formed by the legislature in 1997 to make this happen.

 

More than a decade later, we have not only failed to migrate to a single frequency spectrum, but in rolling out a new 800MHz system we effectively added yet another layer of insulation from statewide interoperability. Everyone is arguing about which spectrum is ‘superior’ by way of coverage, available technologies, limitations, costs and so on.  But I am convinced that the fly in the ointment is the funding mechanism.  The UCAN network relies almost exclusively on user fees.  The various VHF systems in the state are funded either by the Department of Public Safety, user fees, or individual cities and counties.  There will be no movement towards a single spectrum until the central infrastructure is funded by a single source.  South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Virginia, and other states have successfully rolled out statewide networks after receiving funding that is overseen by their state legislatures.  Even federal grant monies require state oversight for successful deployment across county boundaries.

 

 





Mon, 17 Jan 2005 05:54:43 GMT

Floods and Blizzards Make Wireless Challenging
This last week has seen a great deal of turmoil for Utah's public safety communications 
infrastructure.  While floods were keeping Washington County busy, four of their five mountaintop communications sites went down due to heavy snowfall. Governor Huntsman's first Executive Order was to declare Washington County a disaster area.  Working through DPS, State ITS Wireless Services Group assisted Washington County with the restoration of their communications sites.

The heavy snowfalls took out power lines to five state communications sites. These sites are located all over the state, so the storm was not limited to a small geographic region. The Logan Peak outage was by far the most critical because the back-up generator failed to run.  With the exception of Logan Peak, I was proud of the fact that while neighboring communications facilities were dropping like flies all over the state, the ITS facilities were operating.  This is due to the high-standards that our technicians maintain our sites to.  We loosely follow Motorola's R-56 Site Standards.

The next problem is refueling the generators that have been running for the last week to ten days.  Our local helicopter vendor is not authorized to long-line propane, so we are requesting the assistance of the Utah National Guard.  Last year they came to our rescue, and we need them again.

 





Tue, 04 Jan 2005 20:00:01 GMT

Navajo Nation I.T. Meeting

 

I met with several I.T. representatives of the Navajo Nation earlier today.  They are attempting to consolidate interest, cooperation and funding for several I.T. projects in support of I.T. infrastructures within the Nation.

 

They know what their needs are, but more importantly, they have a clear understanding of what their limitations are.  Today, I.T. is primarily available to more than 200,000 Navajo citizens a 110 Chapter Houses where On-Sat satellite service provides connectivity to the Internet, Email etc.  The Nation no longer wishes to be dependant on vendors, but wants to act as their own I.S.P., to include backbone infrastructure such as microwave, fiber, etc.

 

They have initiated a six-step solution that will result in a comprehensive RFP, which will address their IT needs.  The first step, identification of existing networks and needs, has already been delivered via a proposal from Optegra Networks Solutions Inc.

 

The State of Utah continues to work closely with the Navajo Nation to find common, interoperable solutions. Several action items have been developed, including co-developing a communications site at Navajo Mountain.





Fri, 17 Dec 2004 23:08:04 GMT

Wireless Interoperability Solutions Are Anything But...

Every time a vendor releases another 'Wireless Interoperability' solution, we move further away from interoperability. Why? Because interoperability solutions have one thing in common: they are all proprietary! (Hello?…McFly!)

The Florida State Technology Office has just contracted with Motorola for their new Motobridge IP Interoperability Solution. The State of Utah is using the Motorola Omni-Link solution to connect dispatch centers across the state together. There are dozens of solutions available from dozens of vendors. I'm sure most, if not all of them are great, but they are still PROPRIETARY. The list of interoperability projects is almost as endless as the amounts of money poured into them.

The 'open-standards' horses left the wireless barn years ago. There will probably never be another common band, using common modulation schemes, trunking protocols, etc. Even VOIP solutions require proprietary hardware and software to coordinate routing, traffic priority, etc.

I think we'll see the next opportunity to migrate towards a more central solution when SAFECOM and/or APCO rollout VOIP standards. They are both working on them.

 





Sat, 02 Oct 2004 23:39:25 GMT

Utah's Public Safety Wireless Situation
(According to Doug)

1. Expansion 'Disincentive':
The reason 800MHz expansion outside the Wasatch Front isn't happening is because there is a negative incentive (is that a real term?) for rural areas to join. If you are the sheriff of Wayne County and operate a $500 radio on a system funded by the state (no fees), why would you want to join a system where the radio now costs thousands, the fees are heading toward $25/user/month, and unless more sites are developed, the coverage will decrease. There is no conspiracy out there. There is a cash flow reality. It works well in the Wastach Front because of the density of users which makes an obvious financial case for trunking.

Quick analogy:
a. You start a business with 5 employees, so you lease 5 phone lines.
b. You start a business with 5,000 employees. Do you lease them each a phone line, or do you issue extentions and have them share a few dozen 'trunked' lines? Rural Utah is the 5 employee business, and we are trying to sell them the 5 phone lines at the 5,000 line trunked cost (oh, and by the way, the new expensive phone lines only work if you're standing in certain spots in your office).

2. Money Drives Technology - Not Necessarily Interoperability:
As long as rates determine who joins, Utah will never have a single public safety communications system. The Wasatch Front users will never fund the lesser populations by paying the higher rates necessary to build infrastructure in rural areas. Period. Finito. The End. I recently spoke at the Bio-Terrorism conference in South Dakota. My topic was: "Communication - A Success Story". South Dakota has just rolled out a statewide Narrowband VHF trunking system that has a single, uniform, statewide user fee: $0.00/user/month/forever. That was not a type-o. I meant zero. They even used grant monies to supply 10,000 radios to all state, city, and county public safety agencies. The last I heard, they were going to supply 600+ radios to the federal agencies in their state. If I've peaked your interest, read CommTech's (formerly A.G.I.L.E.) case study of South Dakota: http://www.agileprogram.org/ntfi/case_sdakota3.html
Just who has the real success story to tell? Utah needs to regroup in a very basic way and re-think funding mechanisms. If Utah wants statewide interoperability, user fees must not exist (not even teeny tiny ones). This means current funding (VHF, UCAN, OmniLink -all of it) needs to pushed back toward the legislature where it can be added to and invested in a system that gets written up as a case study in CommTech.

Utah has a solid tax base, strong political leadership, and good technologists. We're suffering from the lack of a single vision that everyone can get behind and own. The technology and the grant money are doing more damage than good. I don't care if we do it VHF, UHF, 800, 700, VOIP, or mental telepathy, but let's do one plan. That plan may be a combination of technologies, but it should be ONE PLAN.