In Benefits of P25 — Part 1, we showed how P25 improves audio quality and increases the privacy of your communications.
This week, in Part 2 of the series we talk about how P25 allows you better control over your information, better customization and makes digital connectivity easier and more cost-effective.
P25 Increases Control Over Your Information
Because P25 transmissions are digital, it is easy to add extra information such as the destination ID (individual or talkgroup) and the caller ID. The P25 CAI defines signaling information that is sent over the air along with voice. This information allows a wide range of services to be offered. These services include different types of calls (unit-to-unit calls, group calls, emergency calls etc.) but also the ability to prioritize calls, to authenticate users, to temporarily disable and re-enable particular radios over the air, and so on.
Identifying Users and Talkgroups
Every subscriber unit on a P25 system has a Unit ID. Individual subscriber units are numbered in the range 1 to 9999999. The Unit IDs should be programmed into the subscriber units using a national, corporate or agency wide unit identification scheme.
In addition to individual Unit IDs, P25 systems also use talkgroups. A talkgroup is a group of radios that are required to operate together. The agency can decide exactly how it wants group radios according to its communications needs. For example, one agency might set up talkgroups based on regions, another might choose to set up talkgroups based on organizational units (e.g. motorcycle unit, SWAT team, foot patrol, commanders-only etc).
P25 Networks Are Customizable
The design of a radio communications network is determined by such factors as how big an area is to be covered, cost, availability, and most important, the communications objectives of an agency. Unlike some other network technologies, P25 does not limit an agency from designing and operating a system built specifically to its unique needs. Systems can be designed which are trunked, conventional, simulcast, or even a combination of all three. Voice and data services are supported as standard. P25 networks can be built with digital links – similar to wide-area computer networks – or can be specially wired together in the manner of traditional analog radio systems.
Digital Connectivity Is Now Easier And More Cost-Effective
Over the past couple of decades Tait has been involved in what magazines and technology pundits have dubbed ‘the digital convergence revolution’. This refers to a sharing of technologies that were hitherto completely separate. Voice on one network and data on another. The practical outcomes of this revolution have not only been visible to consumers in the form of smartphones, digital media players, WiFi hotspot networking, and internet telephones. It has also been felt in professional communications, especially in public safety. The modern digital radio network shares much in common with a computer network. A P25 digital hand portable is, like a smart phone, largely a computer, and a modern laptop is now also a communications device.
This convergence of technologies has been driven mainly by standards, used to develop the Internet, that prescribe how digital data is organized, stored, and transmitted. The networking standards underlying digital convergence are commonly referred to as ‘Internet Protocols’ or IP standards. A P25 radio converts voice into digital data packets and sends these packets through a network using the same standards that govern the transmission of computer data through an office LAN or the Internet.
There are two principal advantages to converging technologies:
- Easier, more flexible connectivity: If it is possible to ‘connect anything with anything’ using a common, shared networking approach, then specialized, proprietary hardware is no longer required. For instance, to attach a console, or a PABX, or data gateway to a radio network. Designing a whole communications system that ties together radios, cellular, consoles, mobile data terminals thereby becomes not merely feasible; it becomes standard. It is therefore easier to grow and add capabilities to such a network.
- Cost reduction: With the use of open standards and the removal of the need to design expensive special connection hardware, there are fewer boxes, less cabling, and less physical space required to deploy a digital radio network. A P25 IP-based network can use the same off-the-shelf equipment (e.g. switches, routers) that offices use to create a local area network. There are also fewer points of failure and lower maintenance costs incurred. Moreover, open standard connectivity enables equipment from different companies to be combined, and as a result, allows public safety agencies to make budget choices that, until now, were not possible.
For P25 users, the benefits of digital connectivity are a present reality, not a science fiction future. The flexibility and cost saving advantages can be achieved with today’s P25 equipment for small agencies as well as for larger county-wide or statewide systems.
If you are a smaller public safety organization looking for an affordable P25 network, don’t miss our complimentary whitepaper on P25 Affordability: It may cost much less than you think.