The future of radio

By Paul Ludvik*, NSW business development manager, ComGroup Australia
Friday, 06 January, 2012

In my 19 years within the two-way radio industry I have seen many changes and developments. I have seen the transition of radios using crystals, diode matrix boards, EPROMs and DSPs for programming and frequency changes, along with the introduction of data with MDTs, GPS and telemetry within the two-way radio medium.

Recently the industry has begun to move into the digital world with TETRA and P25 protocols, adding new vibrancy to the radio industry, as the government invests in P25 technology with a focus on interoperability and high-level encryption. Within the Australian market, TETRA technologies are starting to gain real momentum thanks to the changes in the ACMA 400 MHz frequency band, allowing 25 kHz with 10 MHz or more frequency splits within 400 MHz high-density areas to cater for this technology. However, the new kid on the block is definitely DMR, which encapsulates the benefits of both P25 and the TETRA technologies.

DMR features may vary, but most vendors incorporate the following: two timeslots in a 12.5 KHz channel, giving you the benefit of either two voice channels or simultaneous voice and data; some will incorporate duplex telephony while others offer in-built GPS options with their portables coupled with tier 3 offering DMR trunking; and let’s not forget benefits such as digital encryption along with digital audio quality. It was pleasing to see the response to our new Simoco DMR platform at the recent RadioComms Connect show. It’s not hard to see the industry is buzzing about digital radio.

The real challenge, as with any new technology, is the migration and transition period. DMR seems to manage this very well. However, the one thing that has been underestimated by some adopters is the higher cost and current consumption of either microwave links at solar sites to link multisite systems together, or the lack of DSL type services within the rural base sites. This has possibly been the hardest obstacle to overcome with the migration to digital, but investments that are needed by organisations and industry will provide major benefits for years to come, and has now become the norm when planning a new radio system.

So the digital revolution is certainly alive and well, as we are seeing new players within our space. And these newcomers are our friends from the IT world. With the integration of IP-based technology in the form of consoles, remote configuration and diagnostics, coupled with VoIP linking, we are seeing an RF control with an antenna fitted within an office being swapped out for a PC with a console application connected via DSL-type services.

The bridge between two-way radio, cellular and IT is becoming more and more apparent, with the onset of LTE or 4G adding to the mix, with the possibility of one day having two-way radios as an application on your smartphone. So who knows what is around the corner, but whatever the future brings, it is important that the radio industry embraces it and makes an investment in skills and training, so that we can better manage this transition and have some control of our market and destiny.

*Paul Ludvik has been in two-way radio for 19 years, starting out as an apprentice communications technician in 1993. Throughout his career he has worked in various technical and sales roles for many of the country’s leading radio solutions providers. In his current role as NSW business manager, ComGroup Australia, Paul is responsible for managing the local Parramatta branch and serving the NSW market.

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