Texas town creates wireless potpourri

A town north of Dallas has connected three wireless networks to enable first responders to seamlessly communicate across the area.

Hamid Khaleghipour, information technology director for Addison, Texas, said Padcom’s TotalRoam technology allows police and fire officials to communicate across three IP-based and non-IP-based networks. They use 800 MHz, 802.11g and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology.

In addition, Addison officials are deploying a townwide wireless mesh network for public use. That network will also enable first responders and other government employees, such as public works officials and inspectors, to access data while working in the field. It will eventually displace the CDMA network as the primary channel for government officials and first responders.

Khaleghipour said the redundancy is essential for public safety officials in case one of the networks is knocked out. In addition to being a tourist attraction, Addison, which is about 4.3 square miles with a daytime population of 150,000, is home to several major corporations.

The town is one of only a handful of Texas municipalities with three layers of connectivity, he said, adding that some of the state’s major cities have only one network.

Mark Ferguson, Padcom’s marketing director, said jurisdictions typically use two networks. But as they deploy the networks, they find they can’t efficiently switch from one to another and need a third party to provide seamless connectivity, he said. He added that the market to provide faultless connectivity, especially for public safety and utility needs, is growing.

Padcom has deployed 30,000 licenses across the public and utility sectors, Ferguson said.

According to a Padcom case study, the seamless connectivity has cut Addison’s public safety response time significantly, but the company did not provide any statistics. The analysis projected that the town will have a net benefit of nearly $275,000 in five years due to increased productivity. The project also has an anticipated return on investment of 957 percent, according to the Padcom study.

The town paid Padcom about $32,000 for a one-time perpetual-use license and pays $4,000 annually for maintenance and upgrades.

Public safety officials began using the 800 MHz network before 2001. The network, which is owned by a neighboring jurisdiction, enabled the town’s first responders to communicate with dispatchers and get access to vital information, such as motorists’ outstanding warrants and other background information.

But the network did not cover certain parts of the town, and periodic outages left police without access to information and dispatchers. Addison officials subsequently deployed the 802.11g and CDMA networks.

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