When radio systems were relatively simple and isolated, system monitoring came down to the users reporting
communications problems. While this may have
been sufficient in the past, today’s systems are highly
integrated, and depend on external computers, servers,
routers, links, multiple software platforms, even people
in different organizations. This is why even relatively-simple radio systems deserve active monitoring.
But what should be monitored, why and how?
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
System monitoring practices among the US Public
Safety radio systems vary greatly. At one end, there
are organizations with fully-funded internal Network
Operation Centers (NOC) providing 24/7 live
monitoring. Of course, this is an expense that can be
justified only for the largest networks. Consequently,
it is not common.
Unfortunately, the opposite end of the spectrum is
much more common – agencies who rely solely on
complaints from their users. The great majority fall in
between. Networks are monitored, but not full time,
or not by dedicated staff . Here are some common
APPROACH ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
Critical elements are monitored automatically
for complete failure (dead power amplifier) or
threshold detection (AC power voltage below
Alarms send out a page, text or voice
message to a technician.
Little or no labor cost. Limited to alarm triggers. Hard to spot
A monitoring terminal is located in a room that
is used 24/7, typically a dispatch center.
Personnel monitor it as a side activity.
Little or no labor cost. Detracts from dispatch activities,
requires training and relies on non-
technical interpretation of technical
Maintain their own NOCs, but do not man
them 24/7, relying on other approaches
during evenings and holidays.
Some monitoring is better than none.
Non-critical data analysis enables early
detection of potential problems.
Depends on the approach used during
Third parties carry out monitoring (equipment
vendors, local service providers, dealers,
specialized NOC service providers). A city
or a county may add their system to a state
24/7 monitoring Competing for resource with larger
Different combinations of the above. Optimize for acceptable cost and best
WHY MORE IS NEEDED
Requires active management as
The old radio systems were simple; not too many things
could go wrong. They were all isolated, conventional
hardware networks. Not only were they simpler,
they were often less critical in nature – with a failure
of a channel, users would be notified, or trained to
temporarily move to another channel.
Perhaps some industry veterans are cringing reading
these words. What about failing crystal oscillators?
Burning transistors in power amplifiers? Dust de-tuning
RF filters? With all due respect, let us look at what
First came trunking. Suddenly a system failure meant
loss of communications was no longer limited to one
channel and one agency, but could affect hundreds
- even thousands - of users (as shown recently in
Detroit), and all agencies in the area.
Secondly, hardware-based platforms became heavily
dependent on computers and software. A system based
on “ones and zeros” - how hard could it be? Very hard!
Unstable operating systems, bugs and glitches, improper
parameter settings – the list goes on and on.
Thirdly, systems are no longer isolated. Despite the best
efforts of Public Safety officials, it is becoming harder
“THE OLD RADIO SYSTEMS WERE
SIMPLE; NOT TOO MANY THINGS
COULD GO WRONG.”