Arizona district goes wireless

Central Arizona Project

M/A-Com, Inc. won a $5 million contract to develop a secure wireless digital voice and data communications network for a central Arizona water management district by this summer.

The Lowell, Mass.-based company, a business unit of Tyco Electronics Ltd., will implement its OpenSky Internet Protocol-based system for the Central Arizona Project (CAP), a 336-mile long system of aqueducts, tunnels, pumping plants and pipelines. The water-delivery system runs through five counties and numerous cities.

The new 800 MHz trunked system would replace the current Enhanced Digital Access Communications System, which also operates on the same frequency. EDACS was developed and implemented by M/A-Com in 1991.

"OpenSky provides some unique solutions that EDACS did not provide," said David Bremson, a company district sales manager. "OpenSky is the only end-to-end IP based radio system. Now you can have any sort of signal [UHF, VHF, 700 MHz] converted to IP and sent through the system and truly establish a gateway."

More than 400 CAP employees will be connected to the interoperable network, so they can talk to other emergency, municipal and utility agencies. The system will cover a large area and allow users to host four conversations on each of their existing radio channels, substantially improving system capacity. The system also buffers voice transmission, meaning no data is lost, Bremson said.

Each software-defined mobile radio unit will also incorporate a global position system. Bremson said CAP can better deploy its field employees more efficiently and quickly by knowing where they are instead of having locations called in. He also said programming the radios can be done remotely rather than having users physically bring them in.

Currently, the company is installing additional infrastructure to relay signals, he said. The state of Pennsylvania and Oakland County, Mich., are also using M/A-Com's OpenSky system.

CAP, which is operated and managed by the quasi-governmental Central Arizona Water Conservation District, is the largest single resource of renewable water supplies for residential, industrial and agricultural uses in the state.

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