Texas town creates wireless potpourri

A residential community north of Dallas is using technology to connect three different wireless networks together enabling first responders to seamlessly communicate across the area.

Hamid Khaleghipour, information technology director for the town of Addison, said Padcom's TotalRoam technology enables police and fire officials to communicate across the three ' 800 MHz, 802.11g and CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) ' IP-based and non IP-based networks.

Town officials are also deploying a town-wide Wi-Fi mesh network for public use. But the mesh network will also allow first responders and other government employees, such as public works and inspectors, to access data while working in the field. That network will eventually displace the CDMA network as the primary network channel for government officials and first responders.

Khaleghipour said the redundancy is essential for public safety officials in case one of the networks is knocked out. In addition to being a tourist attraction, Addison, which is about 4.3 square miles with a daytime population of 150,000, is home to several major corporations.

The town is one of only a handful of municipalities in Texas with three layers of connectivity, he said. Some of the state's major cities only have one network, he said.

Mark Ferguson, Padcom's marketing director, said many jurisdictions use two networks, but three is 'atypical.' As jurisdictions begin to deploy networks they find they can't efficiently switch from one to another and require a third party to provide that seamless connectivity, he said. He added the market to provide faultless connectivity, especially for public safety and utility needs, is growing.

Padcom has deployed 30,000 seats across the public sector and utility sectors, according to Ferguson.

According to a Padcom case study, Addison's public safety response time has been cut significantly due to the seamless connectivity although it did not provide any statistics. The analysis projected the town will have a net benefit of nearly $275,000 over five years due to increased productivity and forestalling any need to upgrade the mesh network. The project also has an anticipated return on investment of 957 percent, according to the company published study.

The town paid about $32,000 for a one-time, perpetual use license to Padcom and pays $4,000 annually for maintenance and upgrades.

Public safety officials began using the 800 MHz network before 2001. The network, which is owned by a neighboring jurisdiction, enabled the town's first responders to communicate with dispatchers and get access to vital applications, such as checks on motorists for outstanding warrants and other background information. But the network did not cover certain parts of the town and periodic outages would leave police without access to information and dispatchers. The 802.11g network and the CDMA networks were subsequently deployed.

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