Enterprise Communications

We are located at the Port of Stockton in Building 217 Suite 142, Stockton, California. Our focus is on installing and maintaining the Rock Solid communications that our Public Safety customers require. We maintain a good stock of parts as well as complete systems utilizing the proven Motorola Quantar repeaters, Astrotac receivers, and Digitac comparators. These Digital P-25 and Analog conventional systems provide the most reliable and cost effective solutions available today. Give us a call at 209-390-4085 and lets chat.

Consulting services

Consulting services

I started installing and maintaining communications systems in 1970. There are pro's and con's for every type of system. One size never fits all. For the flat lands, higher frequencies work well. For the hills, lower frequencies work better. Interoperability is the current buzz word but it has different meanings to different people. The current trend is to move to network connectivity for communication systems. Maintenance costs for these new systems can be up to 5 (five) times the cost of your current system. These are just a few of the subjects that should be discussed prior to selecting an upgrade or deciding to replace your existing system. I enjoy talking to folks and sharing what I have learned over the last 40 years. Give me a call and lets chat.
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Installations

Installations

We have a bucket truck that has up to a 33 foot working height for those hard to reach jobs. For tower work up to 1000 feet our highly trained tower subcontractors work quickly and efficiently to safely install Microwave and Two way antenna systems meeting or exceeding Motorola's R56 standards. With over forty years of experience installing and maintaining electronic equipment from the Military to Public Safety agencies, we know how to do it right. We are happy to install new equipment that you are able to purchase directly from the manufacture as well as our refurbished equipment listed in the Equipment page above. Need something else, just ask us to find it. We have developed sources for just about anything electronic that you may need.
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Programming and repairs

Programming and repairs

Most of the current radios have 1000 or more channels available. Updating frequency's, PL's, NAC's and operating modes have become yearly if not quarterly tasks for most Public Safety agencies. Narrow banded radios need to be aligned more often to keep them transmitting and receiving at their best. We find that within about three years, these radios will drift out of tolerance and need to be aligned. Most of the subscribers (portables and mobiles), requiring major repairs are best serviced at the factory depot. It is quicker and generally less expensive to handle them in this way and you get the highest quality repairs. Just give us a call and we will pick up your radios, pack them properly, and ship them out for you. As soon as your freshly repaired units return we will drop them off to you, usually within 24 hours. This gives us an opportunity to chat with you about any other communications issues you may have questions about.
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Maintenance contracts

Maintenance contracts

Our maintenance customers have 24/7 access to my office and cell phone. Text messaging is a favorite for my regular customers. All fixed end equipment on contract will be cleaned and tested annually. Antenna systems will be inspected and tested with our Anritsu Site Master providing a complete system health check. Minor repairs of your mobiles and portables are generally handled on site. Repairs requiring dis-assembly are usually sent to the factory depot for the fastest turn around and highest quality repairs.
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Public Safety Communications and LTE

Land Mobile Radio (LMR) has dominated Public Safety communications since the 1940’s. It’s gone through a lot of changes that have improved the coverage and made the voice easier to understand over the background sounds. The one limiting factor is bandwidth. In the 1950’s we had 50 KHz channels that produced broadcast quality audio. In the 1960’s the FCC then changed the rules reducing the bandwidth to 25 KHz. This reduced the audio quality to what you might expect through a telephone. Then in 2013 the FCC again reduced the bandwidth to 12.5 KHz. 6.25 KHz systems are being built by some agencies now and the FCC may make that mandatory at some point in the future although there is a lot of push back from many agencies.

These reductions in bandwidth allow more channels to be available for voice traffic, but greatly limit data throughput and coverage area.

Cellular phone systems continue to improve both in coverage and bandwidth capabilities. With LTE now available, and the Cellular carriers continued improvements in their site reliability, we now have Apps that out preform even the most expensive and robust LMR systems.

Our “Old School” thinking that LMR was the primary communications mode with Cellular being a supplementary addition is now changing. I have included a clip of an App that is now in use in San Joaquin county called Active 911. First Net is the Feds idea of a Nation wide communications system. They are slowly ( what else would you expect from the Feds) coming to the conclusion that merging their efforts with existing Cellular carriers is the only practical way of getting the infrastructure built. Now the Cellular company’s are testing the waters for providing P-25 LMR coverage from their Cell sites for the voice component of Public Safety systems.

At the rate of change we are seeing these days, I would expect LTE systems to become the Primary means of dispatching calls with supplementary LMR radio systems providing on scene voice communications and back up alerting. This is in place now in many agencies and will become the norm over the next few years.

Best Practices for Public Safety sites.

Remote repeater sites must be built to endure harsh environmental incidents such as storms, earthquakes, lightning strikes, power disruptions, heat, cold, driving rain, ice storms, high winds, etc.

In my 45 years of building and repairing these sites, I have come up with a few “Best Practices” rules.

1.  Isolate your equipment from the PG&E power lines.  A 60,000 volt power surge does some really bad things to your radio equipment when your power line is hit by lightning.  Most Public Safety grade radio equipment made these days can be powered directly by 12, 24, or 48 volt DC sources.  A battery bank charged by multiple heavy duty chargers or rectifiers has proven to be a reliable way to eliminate those surges.  Even very close lightning strikes usually don’t take out all of the rectifiers.  I like to see a minimum of 3 and preferably more chargers capable of supplying enough current to keep the site up.  This gives us the “redundancy” we need to keep the site up when bad things happen.

2.  Never substitute a UPS for the battery bank.  While they can provide back up power during power disruptions, those UPS systems cannot withstand a lightning strike, high temperatures or wet environments.  The life span for a UPS is generally less than 25% of a good 48 volt battery plant.

3.  Generators have historically been the logical choice for extended power outage protection, but due to a number of factors such as the California Air Resources Board restrictions, the need for regular maintenance, weekly testing, and fuel delivery issues, these devices are now being replaced by Fuel Cell power generators.  They can be installed inside the equipment shelter and the price for a comparable Fuel Cell generator is coming down. When the fuel delivery and maintenance issues are factored in, they become a preferred alternative.

All you ever wanted to know about Two Way Radio in 1 hour

I found this Video a few days ago on YouTube. It looks like an old Motorola training video. The video is a bit fuzzy and the sound is a little low but the content is excellent. About an hour long, it explains how Two Way radio systems work and the advantages and disadvantages of the four frequency bands, Lo Band (20-40 MHz), Hi Band (150-160 MHz), UHF (450-470 MHz), and (700-800 MHz).

Get a fresh cup of coffee and enjoy the video.

Proactive vs. Reactive

If man made it, it will fail.

Even the most robust electronic systems will eventually fail.  Planning will determine what happens when it does.  If you operate in a Reactive atmosphere, then this will become an emergency.  A good example of this is when all of your radio traffic is funneled through a single site.  Over the years I have seen this many times.  PG&E failure, back up generator failure, UPS battery failure, Air conditioner failure, roof leaks, vandalism, storm damage.  Note, none of these failures are caused by the radio equipment failing itself, but due to external factors the site does go down and can be down for hours, days, or weeks.  Panic sets in when all communications are down and emergency measures are taken that can be risky to the equipment by trying to run back up generators that don’t have good voltage regulation, or technicians are asked to work in unsafe conditions to replace damaged antenna’s.  If you don’t keep critical spare parts such as antennas, cable, connectors, back up radio’s, or connectivity parts on hand, extended down time can be expected.

 

A Proactive approach will factor in all of the above in the design of a Public Safety communications system.  Redundancy is the key to planning for the day you are faced with a site failure.  Lets say you have three channels in your organization.  A proactive approach would be to use three transmitter sites located around your coverage area, utilizing independent connectivity such as point to point microwave with back up T-1’s through the phone company if practical.  These sites should have back up generators, and battery back up to carry the system during the start up period or should the generator fail to start, for a period of time that would give a technician time to respond to the site.  With this approach, the failure just requires a push of a button to move over to a working site and a routine call for repairs.  Public Safety communications continue in a controlled environment.

Proactive or Reactive.  It is your choice.

 

 

Perspective

In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s most manufactures were making equipment that required frequent  alignments and repairs to keep radio systems working properly.  The technical manuals were complete with circuit diagrams and part numbers so that most any electronic technician could repair their equipment.  Competing service shops were encouraged to support the manufactures sales.  By the mid 90’s the manufactures were able to produce some very reliable equipment reducing the need for many local service shops.  Motorola closed all of their company owned service centers and set up partnerships with independently owned shops.

By the turn of the century a new realization set in.  The equipment was too good.  The Quantar series for example, was advertised to average ten years “mean time between failures” or six sigma as they called it.  Many of these radios have been in service for over 15 years now and will likely last another 15 years.  Reoccurring sales were dropping and service contract revenue was dropping at the repair centers.

The solution for Motorola and a growing number of manufactures was to move to systems that would require replacements within just a few years and eliminate competition from independent service shops by removing all circuit diagrams and parts list from their service manuals.  The manufactures could now control prices by controlling which shops were allowed to sell and service the equipment.  To further control the competition, Motorola began selling proprietary systems that would not directly interface with any other manufactures equipment.  Once you purchased a core piece of their equipment, you were locked into a Sole Source procurement process.  The factory repair depot’s profit margins ballooned as well as their protected service shop partners.  When the sales numbers get low, the depot can simply stop repairing your model of radio requiring you to buy a new replacement.

Many agencies are comfortable dealing with a well known company that has a reputation for providing reliable equipment as long as the grant money covers the higher prices.  They are less comfortable when the reality sets in that they are locked into maintenance contracts that are controlled by the manufactures and are typically three to five times higher than the open source systems they replaced.  The manufacture determines which partner shops are allowed to submit a quote for sales and service in a designated service area.  No competition is allowed.

Many of the larger State and County self maintained shops prefer to build open source communication systems that allow the flexibility to use competing manufactures equipment as new and more innovative equipment becomes available. Motorola has the LEX 700 out now and a new model the LEX L10 coming out soon.  Harris has their RPC-200 as well as the RF-3590 LTE Ruggedized Android tablet.  These use Band 14 First Net capabilities as well as existing cellular carriers.  This is the future of Public Safety communications.  By keeping a back up “KISS” system for those rare times that cellular goes down, you can have the best of both worlds.

The different military services have purchased equipment from many different manufactures and are able to operate across all of the systems by utilizing open source wire line and IP connectivity.

We here at Enterprise Communications work with our customers, helping them find the most appropriate equipment for their needs, and then select a service plan that will fit their budget.  As an independent service provider, we are able to give unbiased recommendations for your consideration.  Give us a call and we will be happy to help.