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The appearance of impropriety continues as the Bay Area SUASI Program grows. Under the direction of general manager Laura Phillips, the Bay Area SUASI organization continues to hire “project managers” who were previously employed by Motorola selling the same products and technology that SUASI is now funding for some Bay Area cities and Counties. Phillips is also a former Motorola employee.

Coincidentally, Phillips also chairs the Bay Area SUASI Program Funding Approval Authority.

Hundreds of millions of tax dollars will likely be spent in the Bay Area on Motorola radio communications equipment without the benefit of competitive bid.  Under the SUASI program leadership, the radio communications systems are being structured so that only Motorola licensed equipment will be compatible. This sort of restriction on competition generally results in unnecessarily high cost, premature obsolescence and marginal quality.

Would you expect anything less from a team of Motorola sales professionals?

I first wrote about this phenomenon in “The appearance of impropriety (part 1)” on August 15, 2008. SUASI has hired two more Motorola salesmen since then, and continues to aggressively recommend proprietary Motorola products under the guise of communications interoperability.

Motorola is one of several firms that manufacture digital trunked radios that use the
controversial P25 standard, however Motorola has introduced proprietary variants into its products that intentionally limit interoperability with other brands.  It is being suggested that the SUASI-funded Motorola systems in the Bay Area be interconnected using a proprietary product called Omnilink. This will destroy the ability of city and county governments to purchase radios on a truly competitive basis from a large number of manufacturers.

Only mobile and portable radios that use Motorola’s Omnilink software would be able to fully use the proposed systems. The very expensive radio base station and controller equipment would have to be exclusively Motorola products.

Several problems occur for city and county governments when a single manufacturer controls a large system.

  • The manufacturer can declare hardware and software obsolescence at any time, necessitating the mandatory purchase of expensive software upgrades and replacement equipment.
  • Once customers are locked in to the proprietary product, the manufacturer can set arbitrary prices for equipment, software and related services.
  • The manufacturer is motivated to release products when they are barely debugged, knowing that 1) the customer has no alternative; and 2) the customer will buy more equipment and services to fix the problems.

The Bay Area SUASI has restricted access to portions of its website that include staff bios and its organization chart.  A password is now needed to view this seemingly public information. I suppose that I would want to conceal this information too, if I had stacked the deck in favor of Motorola.

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My perspective is from the viewpoint of someone who is responsible for managing public safety technology.  I am responsible for specifying and purchasing telecommunications equipment for local governments and  have long-term relationships with police and fire departments to provide technical and business advice on public safety technology.

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Addendum:

  • 03/23/2009 Bay Area SUASI modified its website to allow public access to the staff bios page.