On the flip side, I have suggested that those in the two-way radio industry should start attending CTIA Wireless to learn more about commercial capabilities. Even though they share wireless as their communications media, there are many differences between the two industries and it would be beneficial for all to learn about these differences. For example, commercial customers are accustomed to cell systems and devices with power output at 500 milliwatts or so while public safety uses high-power devices--mobile units usually have power levels of 50 to 100 watts and handheld radios transmit at about 5 watts. This means that there are necessarily many differences in the two basic system designs.
One educational session I am leading is about next-generation technologies. The two presenters, one on WiMAX and the other on LTE, will be talking about how very different these systems are and how those involved in the two-way radio business will have to learn to plan and build their systems differently going forward. There is a common thread between the two industries in that one of the ways they are solving their interoperability problems today is by using IP as a common platform to tie different types of radio systems together. Some of these systems even provide for a commercial operator's push-to-talk offering to be able to bridge back into public-safety networks using IP devices.
I have been providing consulting and educational services to both industries for many years, and I find it interesting to see this transition taking place. Even though radio (wireless) is the common bond, the two industry segments speak different jargons. In the commercial world, for example, we talk about Frequency Division Duplex that makes up the bulk of our networks, and Time Division Duplex that most WiMAX systems use. These two phrases have no meaning in the world of two-way radio, but if you said to a public-safety communications professional that the system was a half-duplex repeater system or that it was based on simplex or tactical radio channels, he or she would understand exactly what you were saying.
Not only do the two industries need to learn from each other and work together, they need to learn enough about each other's language to be able to translate what they are saying into something the other industry can relate to. Commercial companies that are attending IWCE are learning about this different world and those involved in the two-way radio business attending CTIA Wireless will become more conversant with the world of commercial devices and systems. The result will be better communications capabilities for the first responders, something that has been an issue for more than 30 years and is finally receiving public attention only after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
Andrew M. Seybold is an authority on technology and trends shaping the world of wireless mobility. A respected analyst, consultant, commentator, author and active participant in industry trade organizations, his views have influenced strategies and shaped initiatives for telecom, mobile computing and wireless industry leaders worldwide. www.andrewseybold.com. Don't miss the Andrew Seybold Wireless University on Monday, March 22, 2010, at CTIA Wireless 2010, Las Vegas, Nev.