MCIS provides the following services specifically for public safety and P25 users:
System onboarding, upgrades, and true migration – many agencies are struggling with disparate, dilapidated radio systems and have more hurdles in the way to upgrading than cost alone. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to upgrading. Sometimes an extremely well-executed cutover with a fallback plan is best. Other times a true migration is better, where extreme attention to detail and a careful survey and interworking of existing legacy systems is required. Whatever the situation is, MCIS can help to plan and perfectly execute the proper upgrade path.
Radio programming – MCIS specializes in service, and our engineer's and technicians’ attention will be on your project until it is complete. If you need dedicated, focused resources to get your equipment repurposed or operational for the first time, MCIS can help. Our quality control procedures ensure that you won’t have mistakes hiding in your radio programming that don’t surface until you need it most.
Radio Repair – MCIS has repair technicians that have personally worked on and in just about every model of radio that is or was even remotely popular. This means we can identify and repair faults faster, not just because of general electronic board-level repair skills but from real-world expertise of what the most common root causes on each particular model of radio are. These time savings and reduction in variables mean more savings and better quality repairs.
What to look for in a P25 Radio:
1.) DHS CAP, FCC, and any required hazardous location certifications.
2.) Good performance in crowded RF environments with interference, especially urban (near other radios, cellular and broadcast towers, etc)
3.) Good audio quality including Automatic Gain Control, and background noise suppression
4.) Durable construction especially channel and volume pots, battery latching system, and buttons
5.) Battery – good life and ability to select from different capacity options
6.) Availability of well-performing audio accessories, especially for fire service
7.) Good ingress protection, easy to clean
8.) Easy to use interface for selecting zones and channels
9.) Availability of repair parts
What other prerequisites are there besides buying the radios themselves?
1.) Programming – P25 programming is very complex due to the many different features and possible system topologies. P25 supports everything from a single simplex channel, to highly secure trunking systems covering entire countries, to even multiple P25 systems linked together with roaming and interworking. Even if some users only use a fraction of the functionality that P25 offers, the radios still must have parameters and settings for all of the possible features, making the configuration quite complex.
2.) P25 can also be configured to be extremely secure, so this adds to the number of settings in the configuration. In general, P25 programming is more complex than other standards due to the much larger feature set, support for large networks, backward compatibility, and security.
3.) Chargers, Batteries, Carry Accessories, Audio Accessories, Vehicle Mounting Accessories, Vehicle-mounted antennas
4.) Vehicle and Base Station installation – mobile radios and base stations are quite popular due to their increased power output. However, proper installation is critical for both performance and safety. Installations done incorrectly can result in fires, roof leaks, airbags being blocked or equipment being projected towards a passenger, and/or poor or no radio signals.
5.) System infrastructure – while P25 radios can be used in a direct or simplex mode, nearly every application requires at least a repeater to get meaningful range and coverage. Additionally, many public safety agencies use Computer Aided Dispatch systems that integrate with the radio system and provide console interfaces for the dispatcher to easily access numerous channels at the same time.
How long should P25 radios last?
This is very model-dependent. Well-designed, high-tier radios can last 10 years, however will require maintenance and likely repair.
Low-tier or poorly designed radios can have major faults that make repairs cost prohibitive, making 5 years a more reasonable expectation.
The most common flaws on lesser quality and lower-tier P25 radios are:
- Channel pots, volume pots, and antenna jacks are not reinforced by or mounted to the radio Chassis.
o When these parts receive enough impact, such as from being dropped, the force is transferred directly to the circuit board, and can often damage the printed circuit board to the point that repairing the radio is not cost-effective
- Buttons are not reinforced by the housing or chassis
o When the buttons receive impact or are heavily used, this force is transferred directly to the circuit board, and can eventually damage the board to the point that repair is not cost-effective.
- Battery latching design relies on limited material (either metal or plastic) to hold the battery and is prone to cracking and splitting
o This results in unsafe conditions for users, as some users may not notice the intermittent problems from a loose battery immediately or may fail to take the radio out of service for repair and another user is affected.
What is P25?
P25, short for APCO 25, is a suite of standards published by the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials.
P25 is the current standard for digital public safety two-way voice communications in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and parts of Russia, India, and other countries.
P25 was preceded by Analog APCO-16 many years ago, which was limited guidance and much looser specifications rather than an actual standardized protocol. This meant that multiple proprietary systems that did not work with each other still met the requirements of APCO-16.
P25 on the other hand is an actual suite of protocols that allow all vendor’s equipment to interoperate to a required level. Manufacturers can still add a very limited set of their own enhancements on top if they like, however, this must not significantly impact or replace the interoperable base functionality of P25.
Devices are certified as meeting the P25 standards by the DHS CAP (Compliance Assessment Program). This rigorous testing and certification process ensures that vendors adhere to the P25 standards.
What certifications can P25 radios have?
DHS CAP (all P25 radios used in the USA should have this)
FCC (all radios used in the USA should have this)
Hazardous location ratings (found in fire service, oil, gas, manufacturing):
HAZLOC (UL/CSA) Class I Div 1, Class I Div 2, Class II Div 1, Class III
CSA -157, IECEx