by Beck Mitchell, VP of Partnerships
Tango Tango has been connecting radio systems to cell phones since 2016 and as the first sales person at the company, I have seen all forms of initial hesitancy to Radio Over IP (RoIP) technology. I have worked with public safety agencies across the country that utilize various radio systems – UHF, VHF, DMR, LTR, 700/800mHz, etc. RoIP is not new – it has been around since the 1990’s – but connecting it to smartphones is relatively new in the public safety industry. Many radio system administrators, especially those who manage large digital systems, are accustomed to having control over the technology used on those systems – and rightfully so. Mission critical radio systems are a matter of life and death for first responders and community members alike.
But what if radio system administrators could leverage the flexibility and low cost of RoIP technology to lower response times, expand coverage, and provide a redundant form of communication, all while still having control and system integrity?
In this article I am going to discuss how with the right vendors and right policies, RoIP services can be a truly beneficial offering for first responder agencies. I am going to highlight various use cases along with some example policies that make RoIP a viable offering on first responder radio systems.
The Power of Radio over IP:
RoIP solutions, like Tango Tango, offer a flexible way to bridge the gap between smartphones and LMR systems, ensuring seamless communication in the field. However, these innovative solutions also present some unique challenges, particularly when it comes to tracking their use and maintaining network security.
Enhanced Interoperability: RoIP offers a remarkable boost in interoperability, making it easier for various agencies and technologies to communicate seamlessly. It’s a fundamental solution for addressing long-standing issues related to communication interoperability. Allowing users from various types of radio systems to communicate with a common technology, such as smartphones, has been an integral part of the RoIP use cases.
Extended Coverage: RoIP’s ability to span large geographic areas via a data connection is a game-changer. It’s particularly valuable for public safety agencies operating in vast regions, ensuring that communication is not restricted by LMR radio towers. It is also highly valuable inside buildings where radio may not be able to penetrate but there is always wifi or cellular data coverage. This use case tends to be most useful for command staff, school resource officers, and users who travel across wide areas.
Network Approach: RoIP encourages a network approach to communication systems, increasing reliability and adaptability. This is especially vital during large-scale disasters or emergencies when the resilience of communication systems is paramount.
Mobile and Desktop Access: RoIP supports various devices such as tablets, computers, and mobile applications, ensuring that communication is accessible wherever it’s needed. These devices simply require a reliable internet connection to connect to the RoIP system.
Protecting the Integrity of Your Radio System with Policies
Clear Approval Process: Implement a clear approval process for agencies seeking to interface with the RoIP system. Only authorized personnel should be allowed to connect public safety broadband to the network.
Subscriber Numbers: Limit the number of LMR/LTE users to the same number of radio subscribers the department has. This solves the concern of large amounts of user licenses beyond the existing number of radio subscribers.
Monitoring and Authorization Sharing: Regularly monitor the activity on the RoIP system. If available, create automated system reports on provided donor radio serial numbers. This allows for systems to easily keep track of RoIP activity on the system.
Agency Policies: Require all agencies to submit internal public safety broadband policies for review and approval. These policies should outline the use of LTE talkgroups and interfaces, ensuring that all users understand the rules and regulations governing RoIP use.
System Administration Oversight: Radio system administrators should be given LTE service administrator access to view participating agencies’ number of RoIP users, radio talk group information, etc. This allows for the radio system administrators to have similar control over RoIP services as they do over existing radios on the system. Radio system administrators should be given pertinent information regarding the donor radios used for RoIP integrations. Information such as department, Talk Group ID, donor radio make and model, donor radio serial number, etc. This information allows system administrators to authorize certain radios and agencies on the system while also providing the necessary information to disable a donor radio if need be. Appoint a dedicated System Administration team or person to work with RoIP vendors during implementation. They should serve as liaisons between public safety broadband vendors and agencies seeking to use RoIP technology.
Choosing a RoIP Vendor
Choosing the right vendor is a key aspect for ensuring the integrity and control required by public safety radio systems. The vendor should provide tools and implement internal control processes that support the customer policies outlined above. When selecting a RoIP vendor, agencies should look for:
- Proven experience with integrating radio systems and working with public safety officials
- Technology that uses sound encryption and data security practices
- Managed and auditable access control for users, customer administrators, and vendor support personnel
- Technical support capabilities that can help adjust audio levels, accommodate changing or moving radio equipment, and troubleshoot user device issues
The above policy examples strike a balance between embracing innovative RoIP solutions and safeguarding the integrity and security of the communication network. As technology continues to advance, it is essential to adapt and implement policies that ensure a seamless and secure user experience. By fostering transparency, control, and accountability, we can harness the power of RoIP solutions while preserving the reliability of the public safety radio communication systems.
“Make the right things easy and the wrong things hard to do.” – Kathy Sierra
Want to talk about RoIP policy best practices? Contact Beck Mitchell at [email protected].