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The August 2008 issue of Urgent Communications magazine (formerly Mobile Radio Technology) is filled with articles and information about the tenuous state of the evolving standard for police and fire digital radio known as P25. It’s good to see these topics finally being discussed by the mainstream trade press, even though just a few of the problems were mentioned in this month’s edition of Urgent Communications. The problems have been widely known by industry insiders for many years. It seems that many public-safety administrators are finally starting to ask the right questions and demand reliable open-architecture systems that are truly interoperable.

Motorola and other manufacturers continue to aggressively sell closed-architecture systems based on technology that is known to be deficient, and many government entities are continuing to buy. Why is this? Are the government executives who make these multi-million dollar purchases merely not informed, or are they irresponsible risk takers? Or, is there more to the story that might suggest impropriety?

Consider, for example, the City and County of San Francisco. In 2006, the City hired a Motorola sales support employee to become its Director of Emergency Communications. This employee then went on to become the general manager of the Bay Area SUASI which is responsible for administering many millions of dollars in Federal homeland security grants, much of which is destined for radio communications systems. And then in January 2008, the City hires another Motorola employee to serve as its radio interoperability manager. What are the chances of San Francisco buying anything other than a Motorola digital trunked radio system? What role did Motorola play in facilitating its former employees to be hired into these positions of high influence over product selection? Is this happening throughout the country?

And what about the employees of the large “independent” technology consulting firms used by Bay Area cities and counties to advise them on radio technology? How many key employees of these firms are former Motorola sales support employees? Is there a pattern that might be worthy of further investigation?

The East Bay Regional Communications System Authority (EBRCSA) has received many millions of dollars from Bay Area SUASI for interoperable radio communications equipment. According to minutes posted on its web site, most of the EBRCSA equipment (made by Motorola) is stored in warehouses and almost none of it has been deployed. The equipment is based on the well-known and deficient technology described throughout this web site, and will probably be obsolete before it’s installed.

Is this phenomena unique to the San Francisco Bay Area, or is it happening across the Country? Click here for a list of documented failures and problems with digital trunked radio systems.