Regional radio system gears up for pilot program

image of emergency vehicles

A significant milestone in the replacement of the regional radio system (used by various police, fire and ambulance services in the Lower Mainland and Abbotsford) was recently reached with the selection of Motorola Solutions Canada as the supplier of the new system’s radio infrastructure equipment.

The current E-Comm radio system, first implemented in 1999, had a planned service life of approximately 15 years. It will be replaced with next generation technology over the next three years in a phased roll-out following an in-depth pilot set to commence in the next few months.

“This is a significant public safety infrastructure enhancement and we are determined to continue to manage it in a cost-effective, responsible and strategic manner…” 

David Guscott,
E-Comm President and CEO

The new radio system will be based on digital radio technology known as Project 25 (P25) in the 700 MHz band, an open standard that public-safety agencies across North America have widely adopted. This technology was endorsed by the emergency services community following more than a year of consultation, analysis and testing.

“The objective is to implement a new radio system that maintains both public and responder safety, and serves our region as long and as well as the first system that was established almost 16 years ago,” says Richmond Fire Chief John McGowan, chair of the tri-service working group that is overseeing the radio replacement initiative with E-Comm.

E-Comm’s radio network is the largest multi-jurisdictional, tri-service emergency radio system in B.C.
E-Comm’s radio network is the largest multi-jurisdictional, tri-service emergency radio system in B.C.

“We are preparing to implement a best-in-class digital system that will be even more resilient and reliable in the field, provide higher performance, high security and provide greater audio clarity for first responders, particularly in noisy and hazardous environments,” Chief McGowan adds.

Known as the Next Generation Radio Program (NGRP)—the radio replacement project is now gearing up for a second major milestone—a pilot program set to launch in June. The pilot’s objectives are to test and validate key functions and capabilities of the new network design before moving forward with implementation.

“This is a significant public-safety infrastructure enhancement and we are determined to continue to manage it in a cost-effective, responsible and strategic manner on behalf of our Members, and the men and women of emergency services,” explains David Guscott, E-Comm president & CEO. “The radio program’s top priority is the protection of public and responder safety.”

Because this is a planned transition, Guscott says the annualized cost of the new radio network will be about the same as the annual cost of the current network, even with its enhanced features. “The new radio system will be funded throughout its lifecycle by a continuation of the annual levies that user agencies pay for the current radio system,” he adds. ”The goal will be to maintain the existing stable and predictable annual levies in place now through careful financial planning and oversight.”

The current E-Comm wide-area radio system is the largest of its kind in British Columbia with approximately 9,000 radios in the field, generating more than ten-million transmissions each month. The current and new systems will run in tandem until each agency is transitioned on. It is anticipated the new radio system will be fully rolled out across Metro Vancouver and in Abbotsford by the end of 2017.