Operators who routinely monitor their systems can detect issues and take remedial action before failure can occur. In the worst case scenario, a point of failure can be more quickly identified and remedied sooner.
This post focuses on the importance of monitoring to protect and strengthen your LMR system. If you missed the previous posts you can catch up on those here.
The Tougher LMR Networks guide investigates every aspect of wireless communications, and considers how operators might make their LMR systems more resilient. You can also download the full guide and read it on the go.
Even the simplest radio communications are much more complex than their predecessors and therefore much more vulnerable. While operators may recognize this, it is not always reflected in their system monitoring practices.
We know how to monitor for intrusion and theft, environmental factors, equipment malfunctions, antenna system problems, power problems and many more. Where monitoring often falls short is the human resource; the actual monitoring personnel.
Few organizations can afford the ideal – their own, dedicated, system monitoring resource. But just because the ideal is not achievable, every modern radio system should be monitored in some way. There are technical and logistical solutions to fit any size and any budget. So it cannot be justified to simply rely on users’ complaints to alert you when your system goes down.
Large LMR systems
Large trunked systems with thousands of users should be monitored 24/7, which may require some ingenuity.
- You can add your system monitoring to an existing larger system.
- You can pool your resources with other LMR system operators.
- You can work with your equipment vendor, local service provider or seek a specialized service provider.
For systems of less than a thousand users, finances are likely to be constrained and you may have to apply a combination of approaches. For example, you might rely on your own staff during working hours and dispatch personnel and/or third parties after hours.
Depending on dispatch personnel to monitor your system detracts from their core duties. If that is your only option, you need to establish very clear operating procedures, easy-to-interpret alarms and regular training.
Even very small systems should still be monitored. While active 24/7 monitoring may be impossible to fund, you can install all the necessary alarms and bring them to a central terminal with logging and messaging capabilities.
Determine which alarms warrant immediate notification and which can be cleared the next working day. For example, you do not want to be woken every time a site’s voltage drops below 105 V, but if your main repeater loses power, you do not want to wait till the morning. Visit the Tait website for more information about real-time monitoring
What should be monitored?
For secure communications, the main elements to monitor are:
- environmental conditions (temperature, humidity),
- backhaul interruptions,
- integrity of antenna systems,
Your system should have selectable, automatic notifications with pre-defined thresholds for minor, major and critical alarms, via SMS or paging, set up so that the correct notifications go to the right people at the right time. For example, you do not want every alarm (back-up generator kicking in for a couple of minutes due to a power brown-out) to trigger pagers in the middle of the night. But significant problems (TX power drop in a base station) should be reported immediately.
Typical performance reports will include:
- busy periods,
- call duration,
- number of “busies”,
- calls per hour.
This article is taken from the 10 part guide to Tougher LMR Systems.
If you would like to download this article and the other articles in the series you can do that on the Tait website.