Mission Critical Partners Guides Carnegie Mellon’s Radio System Upgrade

Mission Critical Partners (MCP) announced completion of the first phase of a project to modernize the land mobile radio system used by the Carnegie Mellon University police department.

The department had been using a conventional analog land mobile radio (LMR) system operating on the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band to communicate with field personnel in patrol cars, on bikes and motorcycles, and on foot. System users were experiencing performance issues at the edge of the system’s coverage footprint and in campus structures such as classroom buildings and dormitories.

Interoperability issues also persisted because the city of Pittsburgh police department and Allegheny County sheriff’s office had migrated to a Project 25-compliant digital LMR system. Those agencies regularly respond jointly with the university’s police department to on-campus incidents.

Starting in summer 2023, MCP subject-matter experts (SME) conducted an overall assessment of the system and performed coverage testing. They also assessed the consoles used in the department’s 911 center and the distributed antenna systems (DAS) and bidirectional amplifiers (BDA) that are in place in numerous campus structures to improve in-building coverage.

In doing so, they leveraged the firm’s proprietary Model for Advancing Public Safety® (MAPS®) methodology, which leverages the collective expertise of the firm’s 200-plus SMEs, industry standards and best practices, and accreditation programs. After the assessments, the SMEs made numerous recommendations based on the findings and then provided guidance pertaining to multiple improvements that the department is pursuing.

Aaron Lauth, university police chief, praised the thoroughness and quality of the assessment report. “I was able to use that report to acquire the capital-improvement funding that we needed to modernize the radio system,” he said.

The department is replacing its legacy LMR system with a P25-compliant digital simulcast system with encryption. MCP is guiding the migration by providing system design, procurement, and implementation support. Moving to a P25 system ensures native interoperability with city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County emergency-response agencies. Another benefit is that the new system will provide stronger and clearer voice communications to the edge of the coverage footprint while extending it.

The project’s next phase is expected to address the issues that exist with the university’s in-building coverage infrastructure.

“The land mobile radio arguably is the most important tool that emergency-responders use,” said Darrin Reilly, MCP’s president and chief executive officer. “Such devices, whether in their vehicles or carried on their person, enable emergency responders to do their jobs more effectively and safely. We’re grateful for the opportunity to help the university upgrade this vital system.”

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