Connection 8: Migrating to Digital, Without the Tears

The following is an article from the latest issue of Connection magazine. In this piece, we compare the benefits of digital radio to analog, dispelling some of the myths around migrating to a modern digital radio network.

All over the world, organizations continue to use legacy analog radio networks, despite the business and safety benefits afforded by digital radio. Sometimes, that is because of a perception that migrating is a painful process. It doesn’t need to be.

Analog radio networks have served operators well for decades. When a service becomes so ubiquitous and trusted, the notion of ever replacing it can be a difficult one. On top of that, the perceived cost and disruption of replacing your communications infrastructure can be daunting. It’s easy to understand why many organizations adopt an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude, and continue to use sub-optimal technology, despite rising maintenance costs.

While analog radio is without question a well-established medium, digital radio is no fad. For example, the DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) standard was published over a decade ago. It’s a mature, well-defined and trusted open standard, with an increasing presence around the world.

Why go digital?

After decades of service, older analog radio networks are reaching the end of their economic and technological life-cycle. Some will be obsolete or unsupported in just a few years. Fortunately, digital mobile radio offers tangible advantages that create valuable business efficiencies and workplace safety.

DMR delivers full feature-parity with analog radio. All the familiar benefits that you and your workforce rely on are available, so it’s easy to integrate DMR into your workplace processes. Beyond the standard voice communications that you’re familiar with, DMR offers some powerful additional benefits:

  • Double channel capacity. Trunked DMR effectively doubles the frequency capacity of existing analog systems, with TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) technology fitting two voice channels into each frequency band. As your workforce grows, and opportunities to access data become more compelling, DMR will increase your network capacity without increasing your frequency licenses.
  • Data applications. Analog radio served the communication needs of yesterday’s workforce well, but today, everyday business operations rely on data. DMR data transmission increases safety and efficiency with applications for notifications and messaging, location awareness, billing, asset management, fault detection, and packet data services.
  • Clear, reliable voice calls. Breakdown in voice communication can drastically impact operational efficiency – even lead to serious worker safety issues. It’s important that the communication tools your workforce uses deliver the clearest, most accurate transmission available. DMR voice communication is undiminished, right to the edge of coverage.
  • Open standards. DMR is an open digital mobile radio standard used by utilities, transport agencies, mining, oil and gas companies around the world. In most cases, products that meet the DMR standard can interoperate with other standards-compliant DMR network, providing choice and competitive pricing for hardware.
  • Ease of migration. DMR transmission technology is very similar to analog radio, meaning the process of upgrading may be easier and less expensive than you might think. Many modern base stations are capable of operating in both analog and digital modes, with the process of migration in mind.

The way forward

Though the benefits of upgrading may be obvious, the hurdles associated with change can seem overwhelming: the prospect of communications downtime is every organization’s worst nightmare.

The key challenge in replacing any crucial workplace tool is avoiding disruption. Fortunately, there are flexible, staged migration solutions that mitigate the downtime, cost and inconvenience. It’s now entirely possible to integrate your existing systems and migrate to digital platforms at your own pace. In this way, you can fully capitalize on your existing system, while taking advantage of the benefits of a digital platform.

Whatever your motivations to move to digital radio, you can choose a strategy that fits. You can future-proof your communications infrastructure, refresh your fleet, even double your capacity, and make the upgrade to digital on a flexible, staged schedule that suits your business objectives and budget.

Good migrations

The key to easy network migration is flexibility. That means infrastructure and terminals that can operate in both analog and digital modes; with a simple software upgrade to give you a seamless transition from your current analog system to a feature-rich, digital network when you are ready.

Digital-ready terminals and base stations let you spread costs and installation overhead over a transition period that suits you. You can begin refreshing your fleet today, with multi-mode portable and mobile radios that operate in analog mode, with no interruption to  business as usual. Once you’ve installed a digital network, it’s a simple matter to switch your terminals to digital.

Multi-mode base stations running in analog mode can replace old analog site equipment right now, ready to be switched to digital mode when your fleet is upgraded. Some modern base stations even offer functionality to bridge analog and digital systems, letting you gradually transition to full digital operation in phases, as your budget and needs dictate.

This flexible process is helping organizations around the world make the transition from analog to digital radio surprisingly painless. The safety and efficiency benefits offered by a modern digital communication network are accessible through a hassle-free migration, on your own terms.


Ready to go digital? Find out the benefits Tait DMR can offer your organization here. Read more educational and thought-provoking pieces from Connection Issue 8, and be sure to subscribe to be the first to know when new issues are released.

Tait Communications

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