Virginia picks Motorola for radio network

Virginia took the latest step toward replacing its nearly 30-year-old public-safety radio system Friday, awarding a $329 million contract to Motorola Inc.

The Statewide Agencies Radio System, STARS, on the drawing board for almost five years, will provide digital voice and data connections to 20 agencies, including the state police and licensing and regulatory authorities.

Motorola, the nation's leading vendor of police and fire radio systems, will design and install about 130 mobile radio and microwave sites, distribute equipment and provide training under the five-year contract.

The first phase of the system, covering central Virginia, is expected to be operating in 18 months and the entire project is expected to be done by October 2009.

The system includes a portable communications unit that can be taken to the scene of a major event or emergency, especially important in mountainous and urban areas where signals often break up.

At a ceremony in Richmond announcing the deal, state officials called it an 'aggressive and monumental multiagency project.' Planning started in 2000.

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