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Archives > June 2014 > Enhancing Campus Wide Radio Communications

Enhancing Campus Wide Radio Communications

The traditional school year comes to a close, but communications on private university campuses continue to run year-round.

By: Caroline Baptist

Digital Radio Over IP Voting Solutions
Digital two-way radio systems are extremely successful on school grounds. They provide privacy, daily operational efficiency and the security support that's necessary to keep students, staff and guests safe. In times of emergency, radio systems offer reliable communication because they are commonly built on redundant infrastructure and backup power. A privately controlled radio network is free of monthly usage and service charges often accompanying cell phone and landline packages-making it a viable solution for private colleges.

Communication Coverage
Before a college implements a school-wide two-way radio system, the radio coverage on campus (or campuses) should be thoroughly assessed. Based on the geographical and structural layout of a college campus, portable and mobile radios may encounter irregular or lapsed coverage known as "dead spots" when transmitting and/or receiving. Dead spots are caused by natural and manmade environmental factors that impede coverage. Hills, valleys and ridges may hinder communications for rural or remotely located colleges. Urban campuses may be affected by the bustling landscape of surrounding city buildings, bridges and underground tunnels.

On actual university grounds, both rural and urban campuses have an eclectic mix of structures: classroom buildings and labs, auditoriums, athletic complexes, residence halls and apartments, student union centers and parking garages. Subscriber units may lack the strength to penetrate dense structures and/ or electronic interference.

These coverage challenges affect all departments and all communication, in-building and between multiple sites. Campus security officers need instant talkback capability to respond appropriately to critical situations. Other departments rely on radio to delegate tasks on campus grounds, or to coordinate activities off-campus.

Land Mobile Radio Over IP
To enhance radio coverage, campuses have placed analog receive-only (RX-only) satellite sites throughout school grounds and at off-site locations to assist portable and mobile units. These sites required extra hardware such as radio tie lines (which link receiver stations to comparators) and voting comparators. Radio tie lines, in particular, are costly and difficult to maintain, and often lead to system failure as they begin to degrade.

However, campuses that convert to a digital receiver voting system may alleviate such issues commonly found in old analog voting configurations. Digital receiver voting operation integrates voting technology and flexible Internet Protocol (IP) connectivity to constantly monitor sites and facilitate clear, stable communication. A digital receiver voting system is a plug-and-play solution that utilizes Radio over IP (RoIP) and dedicated receivers (reconfigured from existing hardware).

RX-only sites are established at remote locations on and off campus grounds. Over IP, portable and mobile radio signals and the received signal strength indicator (RSSI) are sent to the system's transmitter. The transmit selects-or "votes"-the strongest RSSI to communicate. Voting allows users to obtain the most suitable signal every time transmissions occur.

System Requirements and Options
A standard voting system comprises a master site digital repeater, digital receivers at satellite locations, a network interface and IP connectivity at every site. To eliminate the need for external devices like voting comparators and tone generators, campus IT managers and school decision-makers should implement a voting system whose network controller has built-in ty & Security by Caroline Baptist voting technology. Additionally, a digital voting system should only need one repeater pair and does not require multiple frequencies.

Universities can also introduce nonradio communication within a system by implementing a virtual radio/dispatch software package. This IP networked software (coupled with a digital voice converter) is installed on a Windows-based desktop or laptop computer and acts as "remote communicator" in the system. This software offers remote users simple dispatching operation as well as digital signaling and calling features. Functions such as group and/or individual calling and short data messaging are all accessible from the software's customizable interface screen.

Digital Receiver Voting Advantages
A digital voting approach is ideal for private universities with branch locations and offices. RoIP technology increases mobile coverage between campuses and during off-site activities. This is especially helpful for campus safety, custodial or any other department that is issued university-owned vehicles. A university employee making an offsite pickup or delivery can still communicate with a dispatch central call center located on campus.

Digital receiver voting operation also improves talkback capability on-site and inside a building or structure. Within a sports stadium, for example, clear and intelligible audio can be achieved from the basement level to the main concourse to the upper level section.

Other Digital Features
Universities should take full advantage of radio functions associated with a digital network, such as multiple talk groups and advanced scanning. Digital RoIP voting technology allows single channel to be segmented into groups via Radio Access Numbers (RAN) codes. Each radio is programmed with relevant talk groups and may also communicate with other units on analog channels.

Communication is partitioned according to university department and/or campus location, which allows grouped subscribers to share one voting system, but avoid hearing each other's conversations. A satellite campus can keep its communications defined to users only at its location, or it can deploy certain communications to the main campus. An athletic department can create talk groups based on its operations and facilities, or sports and coaching staff, without an overlap of radio chatter.

A "vote scan" function in select subscriber devices detects the signal strength of repeater stations. The function determines ("votes") for the strongest station for communication. This is particularly useful when users are roaming between campus sites with different frequencies. A security department vehicle traveling between different sites, for example, can communicate seamlessly without having to physically change channels.

To completely maximize time, budget and resources, private institutions may consider a digital receiver voting system operating on 6.25 kHz digital technology. The current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandates "narrowbanding," which orders land mobile radio systems to operate on at least 12.5 kHz bandwidth or equivalent efficiency. An ultra-narrowband digital two-way radio system surpasses this existing requirement and also addresses possible future FCC mandates.

 

 

About The Author
Caroline Baptist

is a Creative Specialist for Icom America Inc., the premier two-way radio communications provider for universities, public safety and other industries. Learn more about Icom’s IDAS™ and P25 radio solutions by visiting www.icomamerica.com or emailing sales@icomamerica.com.

 

 

 

 

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