Satellite talk groups to facilitate interoperability

More than 200 government sites nationwide have signed up for privately organized new satellite mutual-aid radio talk groups that are being promoted as an option for expanding interoperable communications.

The talk groups allow subscribers of the satellite mobile telephone service to conduct private discussions with other users and to use broadcast features allowing a member to communicate to the entire talk group.

Mobile Satellite Ventures LP of Reston, Va., said it has signed up more than 30 locations, including 10 federal government sites and eight statewide organizations, for its public safety talk groups and its Justice and FBI talk group since the groups were created in August.

The company also established a five-state mutual-aid talk group for the Gulf Coast region serving Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Other multistate regional talk groups are in development.

Altogether, 230 federal, state and local government sites have joined the talk groups since the program started in August, the company said.

The public safety talk groups are enrolling subscribers including homeland security officials, law enforcement, emergency responders and public safety officials from various departments and agencies.

The talk groups are "an effective solution to enhance interoperable communications among multiple government and public safety agencies," said Larry Haughey, vice president of government sector at Mobile Satellite Ventures.

Additionally, push-to-talk satellite technology serves as an important communications tool when terrestrial networks are damaged, congested, or nonexistent, Haughey said.

Congress has made interoperable communications for first responders a high priority since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Homeland Security Department and National Telecommunications and Information Administration currently are distributing to state and local public safety agencies a $1 billion fund for improving interoperability.

Mobile Satellite Ventures is majority owned and controlled by SkyTerra Communications Inc.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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