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Trunking Trunking nationwide

By early next year, two-way radio users in England should be able to benefit from near-national PAMR network coverage once again as the Fleetcomm system is revived and rebuilt. Richard Lambley learns about the project and its aims

the UK in recent years. Tose who are eligible have been able to join the Airwave network, which serves organizations having a responsi- bility for public safety – while for others the new push-to-talk cellular services have provid- ed a possible solution.


or would-be two-way radio users requir- ing anything more than regional radio coverage, there has been little choice in

Yet a decade ago, businesses operating na-

tional fleets had several networks to choose from. On the National Band 3 or Wavelength public access mobile radio (PAMR) net- works, services included person-to-person and group calling, plus status messaging, delivered through MPT 1327 trunking technology. Tey could even go digital, on the Tetra-based Dol- phin network.

Making field strength measurements at a Fleetcomm radio site But on the closure of National Band 3 in

2002 and of the Dolphin network a couple of years later, many users suddenly found them- selves bereft of a service. Nevertheless, regional trunked networks have remained available, as well as one partly national network known as Fleetcomm, though even that became progres- sively broken up as sections were sold off. But now, after a change of ownership, the

Fleetcomm system is being rebuilt to offer high-performance MPT-based fleet communi- cations. Its existing regional services are being combined and augmented with infill coverage in an expansion programme due to be com- pleted early next year. Still headquartered at Goole, on Humberside, the system will then be able to deliver coverage options across England from single-site local service to regional and quasi-national, at what its owners believe will be highly attractive prices.

Re-engineering To achieve this, Fleetcomm Mobile Networks has been extensively re-engineering the system to improve performance, while at the same time transforming its economics by slashing running costs – for example, by replacing tradi- tional BT KiloStream circuits with microwave IP data links. “We’re making about a 70–90 per cent saving on the inter-site links, which is a huge cost saving”, explains Sam Hunt, chief technical officer. In addition, he says, some big savings in site

costs have been achieved by – for example – transferring base station antennas to an alterna- tive tower where the landlord charges less. He quotes one example where the rental fell from nearly £20,000 per year to around £800. At an- other, switching to an adjacent site owned by the local water company also resulted in greatly extended radio coverage. “We had a folded di- pole”, says Mr Hunt. “But we are moving on to the water tower which is 50 feet higher and we are having two four-stacks... and we are knock- ing a digit off the end of the price.”

Cutting the cost While Mr Hunt emphasizes the performance of his network, he believes that subscribers won’t fail to notice its price advantage. “For the

26 LAND mobile October 2011

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