Every wonder how the 800 MHz radio project got it's start? Well it was 22 years in the making to get where we are today and there are lots of plans for the future of this radio system.
800 MHz Radio Project Timeline
1988– Cumberland County contracts third party to conduct a study on the public safety legacy radio system in use at the time. Study recommends several upgrades to the sites (Lambs Gap and 3 Square) and the addition of the South Mountain site. Study also forecasts the need for a future study to look into the eventual replacement of the legacy system.
1995– Study conducted by SE Technologies explores options for a new radio system in the near future. Study recommends an 800MHz trunked digital system. At the time 18 800MHz frequencies were available and Cumberland County attains licenses for these frequencies from the FCC.
1998– Cumberland County requests proposals/bids for an radio system falling under the specifications of the 1995 study. Proposal submitted by Motorola, AMP Wireless/M/A Comm, and Ericcson. All three bids are rejected.
August 1999– Commonwealth of Pennsylvania awards contract for state radios system to M/A Com. M/A Com submits unsolicited proposal to Cumberland County and offers state contract pricing for the project.
May 2000– Cumberland County signs contract with M/A Com for a $6,000,000 800MHz trunked digital system. Contract is for 6 high profile radio sites and 5 cell sites.
2004– During testing phase, DPS begins noticing minor interference from cell phone carriers. The FCC releases a report in August requiring thousands of radios systems nationwide to relocate on the 800 MHz band to solve cell interference issues. FCC directs Sprint Nextel to cover full cost of nationwide rebanding. DPS files with the FCC for the first time to report interference from cell phone carriers. Previously Cumberland County had been dealing directly with Nextel Partners (before they were acquired by Sprint Nextel) Cumberland County hires SSI (later to become Kimball) to serve as a consultant during the potential rebanding process.
Tower sites are added at Pine Grove State Park as well as Waggoners Gap to improve coverage.
December 2005– Law enforcement agencies in Cumberland County officially transition to 800 MHz system.
2006– County fire police officially transition to the 800 MHz system. Also this year the Shippensburg Cell Site is added to increase radio coverage in the Shippensburg area. Cumberland County submits request for planning to 800 MHz Transition Administrator.
This request would begin the process for Cumberland County to seek an agreement with Sprint/Nextel, resulting in Sprint/Nextel as the party financially responsible for Cumberland County’s rebanding.
2007- County Fire and EMS departments officially transition to 800 MHz system. New sites added at Holy Spirit and Courthouse. Frequency Reconfiguration Agreement (FRA) process begins between Cumberland County and Sprint Nextel.
2008– Cumberland County continues to experience, investigate and file with the FCC reports of cell phone interference.
Aug 2009-Cumberland County begins to receive equipment for rebanding to warehouse, managed by Kimball.
Jan/Feb 2010– Cumberland County receives final FRA from Sprint/Nextel. This final FRA was three years in the making, as numerous hurdles were over come in the process. The Commonwealth of PA was also negotiating an FRA, which influenced Cumberland County’s RFA, Tyco was purchased and transitions to become part of the Harris Corporation, and several amendments had to be made to the original FRA. Cumberland County, along with Kimball, Harris, SSC and B. Moyer Communications, began the process to exchange 1,461 portables, and reprogramming of 468 mobile radios and 80 control stations.
June 2010– Radio exchanges and reprogramming completed. CTC, Lambs Gap, Shippensburg University, Pine Grove and the Shippensburg Cell site are all retuned. DPS receives approval to place a new tower site in Middlesex Township. Tower site upgrades and 4.9 Link Shot project begins. Project to be completed by end of 2010. This is a $1.7 million upgrade to the system.
Fall 2010—”Second touch” schedule to occur, in which old frequencies will be removed from portables. Mutual aide sites are also scheduled for retuning in the fall (3 Square and South Mountain).
Future Plans– Cumberland County has plans to add 3 additional sites, to improve system coverage. No dates are set.