National Capital Region Land Mobile Radio System, United States of America
The National Capital Region (NCR) is one of the most important political and military areas in the US. The NCR is defined as the District of Columbia (Washington capital); Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties of Maryland; Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties of Virginia. Within these there are many military and Federal installations and facilities which need to be in constant communication with each other and all their personnel.
In mid-2005 it was decided by the Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the armed services, to install a new efficient radio system for use by Federal agencies and the military in the NCR.
In the fourth quarter of 2005 following much consultation and a tendering process M/A-COM’s trunked P25IP (P25 to the power of IP) radio communications system was chosen as the new system. By October 2006 M/A-COM Inc, who are a subsidiary of Tyco Electronics, had supplied and installed the new trunked P25IP radio communications system, including the Network First interoperability solution.
The installation was carried out in conjunction with the US Army’s Director of Information Management (DOIM). The P25 system is Phase I of the NCR project and links more than 5,000 Federal personnel and up to 58 public safety agencies in and around the NCR region. The first phase of the project required an investment of US$4.75m.
The NCR system is the first completely operational Department of Defense (DoD) Land Mobile Radio (LMR) IP-based P25 system to serve the US Army. NCR Phase I provided interoperable mission-critical voice communications with civilian public safety agencies in the NCR region, including greater Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia and Fort Hamilton, NY. The NCR Phase I deployment covered 10 Army bases, including the Pentagon, Fort Belvoir, Fort Myer, Fort McNair, Fort Meade, Fort Hamilton, Fort Detrick, Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) and Fort Hill.
The deployment of NCR Phase II is now underway and expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2007. Phase II will add the US Navy (Naval District Washington, the Naval Academy, among others) along with the US Air Force (Bolling Air Force Base, among others) to the NCR regional system. NCR Phase II will provide seamless wide-area communications and convoy operations over a large footprint, and is one of the first tri-service DoD LMR systems. Phase II is requiring an investment of US$16m.
PROJECT 25 (P25)
The Project 25, or P25 standard, allows independent multi-vendor procurement of radio networks and subscriber devices (radios) and provides a robust public-safety feature set (including data capability and AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption) and operates on smaller 12.5kHz frequencies rather the older 25kHz systems.
The use of smaller channel bandwidths is needed because the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, in response to Congressional mandates, now requires all Federal agencies with LMR systems to move to more spectrally efficient technologies. This move it is hoped will free up additional spectrum for other users, and allow overloaded systems to meet their operational requirements.
In addition to using the P25 standard for over-the-air transmissions, installations are increasingly looking for P25 networks that use end-to-end Internet Protocol (IP) based equipment to interconnect transmission sites, management systems, dispatch console systems, logging recorders and data networks.
An end-to-end IP network uses Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware, such as IP-based servers and routers, to provide all the voice and data switching functionality. An end-to-end IP-based LMR network can operate as a direct overlay on existing IP infrastructure or intranets, and uses IP-based management applications and techniques that are already familiar to IT professionals running large-scale IP networks.
With an end-to-end IP network, data applications, dispatch consoles and logging recorders all interface directly with the LMR switch equipment, and do not require ‘gateways’ for protocol conversions. Some P25 solutions use proprietary circuit switching hardware that requires more expensive dedicated serial lines for control and communications.
These networks may use IP for some aspects of equipment interconnection, but they generally require gateways to interface from proprietary switch protocols to network elements like packet data networks or dispatch consoles. The use of proprietary circuit switch protocols and hardware also dramatically limits the agency choices for third party infrastructure because vendors have tended to limit or in some cases not allow open licensees.
M/A COM SYSTEM
M/A-COM’s digital P25IP radio communications system combines the P25 air link standard with the power of IP packet technology in a trunked voice and data communications system. In addition, the IP-based system provides interoperable communications via NetworkFirst, which is M/A-COM’s network solution that interconnects existing radio communications systems for interoperability for both routine and emergency needs.
The system also uses the latest Federal standard of AES for secure communications, coupled with OTAR (over-the-air-rekeying). The P25IP radio communications system meets the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) narrowband mandate and the DoD Policy with spectral efficiency through P25 digital trunked narrowband (12.5kHz) operation. Additionally, the system provides non-proprietary open architecture and has the advantage of scalability, allowing for migration to future technologies.
The system meets many of the same requirements as the upcoming nationwide Federal wireless communications system, called the Integrated Wireless Network (IWN), including open architecture, multiple procurement options and a low total cost of ownership for 20 Federal Law Enforcement agencies from Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Treasury. This system will operate using Department of Defense UHF spectrum in the 380–399.9MHz frequency range and is JF12 certified.
The IP-based network solution will also facilitate interoperable communications, via the NetworkFirst system with approximately 60 civilian public safety agencies located in both the National Capital Region and in suburban Maryland and Virginia. These agencies are currently communicating on different frequencies and have disparate radio systems throughout the NCR.
Phase II of the contract is a ‘turnkey’, completely integrated, Land Mobile Radio system that will link 10 Army installations in the NCR region and will include site preparation, equipment, implementation, testing and maintenance of the system. The system also will include several sites located outside the National Capital Region in Maryland and Virginia. General Dynamics Wireless Services (NYSE: GD), a unit of GD Network Systems, is M/A-COM’s subcontractor for site preparation work, site management, equipment installation, and life cycle maintenance.