Arinc to shuffle frequencies of Georgia public-safety radios

Originally posted Aug. 15 at 4:47 p.m.; updated Aug. 21 at 11 a.m.

(Updated) As part of a national effort to secure clear radio signals for public safety communications systems, the Georgia Technology Authority has hired Arinc Inc. of Annapolis, Md., to manage a two-year project to re-assign frequencies.

Cellular phone giant Sprint Nextel Corp. of Reston will pay the estimated $2 million to $3 million tab for the two-year project, said Arinc officials. Sprint Nextel is paying for the work because after rebanding it will receive the frequencies vacated by public-safety systems for its own use, said Beth Leek, director for Arinc's public and enterprise solutions unit.

Currently, public safety and commercial frequencies are interwoven, Leek said.

"The public safety users will now be in the lower 800 MHz band, and there will be guard bands separating them from the commercial frequencies when this is all finished," she added.

The guard bands will be empty buffer frequencies that will prevent interference, Leek said.

Public safety radio systems used by police, fire and medical personnel have experienced increasing levels of interference in recent years from commercial wireless carriers that utilize the same or adjacent spectrums of the 800 MHz radio-frequency band, the Federal Communications Commission has said.

The interference occurs because public safety systems use receivers that can obtain weaker signals and so pull in signals from commercial wireless systems operating in nearby spectrums of the 800 MHz band. The result can be "dead zones" within coverage areas where commercial wireless signals overwhelm the public safety receivers.

Arinc, which specializes in information and communications systems, will oversee the move of thousands of emergency and government agency radios in Georgia, including those used by various counties and cities, along with the supporting infrastructure.

The work will include an inventory or equipment, coverage analysis and frequency mapping and planning. The company also will reband, retune, reprogram and replace radio systems.

Arinc will act as a management consultant to Georgia and will oversee the hands-on work of the state's maintenance contractor, East Georgia Communications Inc. of Covington, Ga.

One major logistical hurdle in rebanding Georgia will be keeping the interoperability the state and local agencies have built into their system in and around Atlanta, according to Leek.

"The level of interoperability that they've obtained down there is great for the public-safety user, but it's a challenge in rebanding," she said.

The FCC launched a national rebanding initiative in August 2004 to create separate blocks of spectrum for both commercial and public safety systems.

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