THE PEPRO UPDATE
The air around a lightning bolt is about five times as hot as the surface of the sun (more than 53,000 degrees Fahrenheit).
In This Issue:
- A YouTube Tour of Pepro!
- News Flash
- Product Focus – The Hybrid MicroSite
- Report from the Field - Wyoming
- The Importance of Hardening Commercial Radio Sites for LTE Migration
A YouTube Tour of Pepro!
In May, Pepro hosted Pennsylvania State Representative Lee James and other distinguished guests for a tour of the manufacturing floor and a discussion of Pepro's products, markets and operations. A film crew captured the action, and you can see the results by clicking on the image to the left.
For entities that have an LMR system that may be 20-30 years old, there may be no choice but to replace it with another LMR system, because FirstNet LTE may not be available in a given location for some time and a proven mission-critical voice system is necessary, according to Mike Bostic—a 34-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who now serves as Raytheon’s director of customer advocacy for public safety and security. However, if an entity believes it can operate with its existing LMR system for a few more years, it should not jump to a new LMR system prematurely, because he believes the transition to LTE will happen in 3-5 years.
While the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has repeatedly advocated leveraging commercial cellular networks in the past to quickly facilitate the deployment of a private public safety LTE network across the nation, the risks associated with relying on commercial infrastructure alone in certain geographic localities by far outweigh the short term financial benefits.
Product Focus – the Hybrid MicroSite
Pepro introduced the new Hybrid MicroSite radio site at CTIA in Las Vegas. The new site includes a two-bay shelter with 54 units of rack space protected by patented Faraday cage technology, a 20-foot tower and a trailer dismount system that can install the site for long-term use without disturbing the enclosed equipment.
The site includes three solar panels, batteries and DC-generator to power the site for months without fuel service. The Hybrid MicroSite is the second hybrid site launched this year by Pepro, joining the Hybrid Scout announced in March.
The Hybrid MicroSite provides months of service without refueling, depending on factors such as available sunlight and the power needs of the equipment on site. Its unique trailer dismount system keeps the shelter level, giving one person the ability to set the enclosure in place without extensive training. These convenience factors make the Hybrid MicroSite especially useful in hard to reach locations where shipping in trained teams or fuel is inefficient or hard to schedule.
Report from the Field - Wyoming
Over the past six years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been evaluating its radio sites to find and fix the specific risks that compromise the reliability of our communications infrastructure. The audit phase is due to be completed at the end of this year, at which point all BLM owned and leased radio sites, nationwide, will be inspected by specialists in condition assessment, but that doesn’t mean all sites can wait that long for attention.
In Wyoming, 13 sites were determined to need immediate attention. Steven Strate, telecommunications manager for the BLM, defined the needs for keeping communications online while each site was under construction. A mobile site would be brought in to provide temporary communications support during each upgrade. It would be self-contained and require minimal maintenance, so bureau resources could be focused on the upgrades as much as possible.
Strate discussed his needs with Pepro, and determined the Hybrid Scout, announced at IWCE, would perfectly fit the bill. The Hybrid Scout is a highly configurable mobile radio tower site including a trailer, a fully equipped enclosure including 54 rack units, a 45-foot tower, three solar panels, batteries, a generator and a shore power connection. The enclosure itself was built as a Faraday cage, making it inherently resistant to threats like lightning and interference, which means there is no need for additional grounding. One person without specialized training could deploy the site in under an hour, and leave it to run for more than month – more than enough time to complete a site upgrade and move on to the next location.
“The trailer is pulled to the site, the mast is raised with the antennas mounted using a winch that is built in, power is turned on, and then the radios come alive,” said Marcus Brinkerhoff, a radio technician for the Bureau of Land Management. “The old site can then be decommissioned without any worries and the best thing is that the whole changeover is transparent to the users.”
The timing of the product launch was fortuitous in more ways than one. Strate and Pepro would meet in Las Vegas in early spring, where the company was showing the first – fully functional – Hybrid Scout to potential buyers. The site was equipped with almost exactly the equipment he needed for the site upgrade project.
“We added additional Midland radio equipment to support all the sites in Wyoming, making it ready to support all of the sites to be upgraded, and added a 24 volt DC to 120 volt AC inverter so we could support AC service from the 24 Volt DC battery system,” added Strate. “We needed AC so we didn't have to run the generator or extension cord to plug the scout into for AC support, which generally was not available with having temporary power installed. This supported any AC powered equipment at the site, making the Scout 100 percent self-sufficient without attaching to grid power.”
“The Hybrid Scout has solar power and a backup diesel generator if needed, all on the same unit. With the 24VDC, 420Ah battery bank and the 765 Watts of solar power, we have not even come close to using the generator yet,” added Brinkerhoff. “We have had nice sunny days in Wyoming and it has run flawlessly.”
The Importance of Hardening Commercial Radio Sites for LTE Migration
The development and deployment of LTE systems represent a new opportunity for public safety communications. For starters, public safety can develop and deploy a nationwide network that will enable greater levels of operability and interoperability in the mobile broadband arena than public safety has ever achieved in the world of traditional LMR systems. Moreover, this opportunity holds the promise of public safety systems that could be developed based on commercial standards to generate significant economies of scale, competition in equipment as well as services, and ongoing innovation of the kind experienced in the modern cellular industry. With the move to LTE, public safety can seize this very opportunity.
Given the growth of commercial services, the opportunity to leverage such assets promises to make the development and deployment of an LTE wireless broadband network for public safety far less expensive than it would if public safety were to own and operate such a network itself. In 1991, such a model (with less than 10,000 sites nationwide) was far from appealing. By contrast, the situation in 2011 (with more than cell sites in service) makes this a compelling opportunity.
The challenges of using commercial infrastructure are not dissimilar to those of adapting the commercially developed LTE standard and ordinary services to meet the requirements of public safety. In particular, public safety communications systems must be survivable and able to function in the midst of a natural or man-made disaster. To that end, such systems require a degree of “hardening” and backup power capability that can ensure that they are available during times of emergency. As with the development of lower cost devices, the opportunity to use infrastructure that can be shared between public safety and other users can greatly lower the cost for public safety communications. Notably, basic infrastructure—towers, high capacity lines, and electricity costs—can be shared in an environment where public safety has its own spectrum and network that meets its particular needs.