Moving Public Safety Forward: Invest in the Future, Not the Past.
Use Existing Radio System and Smartphones, with an Etherstack and Cisco Solution
If you’ve got an analog radio system, upgrading to P25 just got much easier and much less expensive.
Some agencies have received an end-of-life and end-of-support notice from their radio network manufacturer. If you’re in this position, there’s a better option for entering the FirstNet era than upgrading your entire radio infrastructure. The problem with jumping to another proprietary radio network is that it might lock you into another 20-year single-vendor solution.
Now there’s an effective and cost efficient way to modernize your existing network radio network infrastructure—whether or not it’s P25, and even if it’s reached end of life. Here are three steps.
Step 1 – Replace Your Analog Voice System with Voice over IP
Instead of upgrading your proprietary radio core, move to an open solution: radio over IP, also called voice over IP. Investing in an open solution generally quickly pays for itself through lower management and support costs and less expensive endpoints. Cisco Unified Communications Manager and Cisco IP Interoperability and Collaboration System (IPICS), for example, use open IP standards to interface with dispatch consoles and other public safety systems.
Some radio network vendors recommend that public safety customers upgrade the radio console before upgrading the network. Think twice before doing this, because proprietary consoles only work on a proprietary radio network. You might find yourself locked into a single-vendor solution. You’ll have more flexibility if you upgrade both your radio network and your consoles. I describe how in steps 2 and 3.
Step 2 – Turn Your Analog Base Stations into P25 Base Stations by Adding an Etherstack Channel Controller
You can keep your existing analog base stations and repeaters if you add an Etherstack channel controller. You’ll be able to keep using existing two-way radios because Etherstack makes them operate P25 phase 1 base stations. You’ll save thousands of dollars apiece on new radios. As you add radio handsets, you’ll have your choice of analog or digital. Here’s a video.
Etherstack channel controllers connect to a Cisco ISSI (Inter-RF Subsystem Interface) gateway, which works with a wide choice of consoles. Etherstack can also turn legacy base stations into conventional P25 base stations and repeaters, using DFSI (Digital Fixed Station Interface). This lets you reuse legacy equipment in P25 phase 1 or P25 Phase 2 applications. Using a Cisco ISSI or DFSI gateway, you can connect third-party CSSI (Console Substation System Interface) consoles to the system. This is a true multivendor solution, and it won’t lock dispatch operations centers into proprietary technology for the next 20 years.
These new solutions allow customers to modernize their existing radio infrastructure allowing them to add functionality, or maintain functionality even after end of life. For example, existing radio networks can use Etherstack channel controllers to upgrade Motorola Quantar and GE MASTR III radio systems and support analog or digital communications, Digital Fixed Station Interface (DFSI) mode or Console Substation System Interface (CSSI) mode allowing open communications to DFSI/CSSI standards based console from Cisco or other providers, allowing you to talk to your existing radio infrastructure speaking analog or digital, and use P25 ISSI to talk with other vendors P25 systems. So you can now use Etherstack Channel Controllers to take your existing analog radio and turn it into a P25 digital radio, and you can do this either in conventional mode, or trunking mode, gaining the trunking features without having to gain these features with expensive upgrades for your existing radio infrastructure from other manufacturers, out of stock or end of life feature upgrades.
Cisco supports third-party hardware and software, giving you a single point-of-contact for support.
Step 3 – Use the Savings to Finance Your Move to Broadband LTE
Our partner Sonim provides ruggedized LTE phones designed for public safety. In this video interview, Donny Jackson, editor of Urgent Communications, talks with Bob Plaschke, Sonim’s CEO, about the new phones.
Sonim phones are about one-sixth the cost of traditional two-way radios. Not only do they connect to carrier cellular phone service and indoor Wi-Fi, they also include LTE Band 14 radios for use on FirstNet. Using the Cisco Instant Connect mobile application on Sonim phones, public safety users can join radio talk groups over commercial carrier networks or on-premise Wi-Fi networks. One battery charge provides 20 hours of talk time. The phones are ruggedized to an IP69K rating, the highest protection available, which means they can withstand a two-story drop and full water-hose pressure.
In summary, if you’ve received an end-of-life or end-of-support notification from your radio system provider, you have a great opportunity to modernize your radio system at low cost. The same applies if you are contemplating a move to digital radio and an IP infrastructure. There are three good reasons to use the solution from Cisco and Etherstack. First, you can upgrade your circuit-switched network to IP and have a choice of console manufacturers. Second, you’ll gain P25 features without an expensive forklift upgrade to a proprietary radio infrastructure. Third, you can modernize your endpoints by using smartphones designed for use on the public safety LTE infrastructure.
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