Pennsylvania Awards Radio Contracts for Statewide Public Safety Net

Pennsylvania awarded contracts to several vendors to develop portions of a statewide radio system that will link state agencies and offer citizens enhanced emergency communications features.

The new network equipment will improve public safety communications over what was possible via the analog system it is replacing. For instance, the new digital network can fit more radio messages -- voice and data -- over its channels, an important feature because new public safety frequencies are difficult to acquire.

Pennsylvania's existing radio system is a collection of outdated, independent radio networks built by more than 20 state agencies using varied technologies that are not fully compatible. "The greatest part is that the current system is extremely old," Thomas Paese, Pennsylvania's secretary of Administration, said. "Now, it will be a shared system and interoperable."

One benefit of the system is that public safety communications will occur seamlessly throughout the commonwealth, Pease said. For example, a sting operation crossing different regions used to mean that each party would need two or three radios in a car in order to communicate. That will no longer be the case.

The new radio system is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2001 and will provide two-way, mobile radio coverage over 95 percent of the state.

The public safety radio project also will be made available to any local governments that want to gain access to the network without having to bear the costs of infrastructure development. Interested localities will have to purchase their own radio equipment and pay a portion of the annual maintenance costs, but they will be able to share radio channels and use the new radio towers.

"Many localities want to look into it.... It would help to expand infrastructure and help local governments save some money and interoperate with state police," Paese said.

The contract for supplying and installing the microwave radio system that will interconnect radio towers and cell sites was awarded to Alcatel USA, based in Norristown, Pa., and the system's digital radio equipment will be supplied by M/A-COM, a division of Harrisburg, Pa.-based AMP Wireless Systems.

Rohn Industries Inc., Worton, Md., and MFS Technologies Inc., Omaha, Neb., will be responsible for tower site development, which includes supplying and installing the towers, equipment shelters and emergency power generators. The more than 550 towers currently in place will be replaced by about 250 towers.

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