Tait Communications may have been a little quiet in the UK recently, but it is very much alive and kicking and looking to put its new DMR Tier 3 two-way radio systems firmly on the map.
The New Zealand-based company unveiled its top line DMR Tier 3 system in 2012. The solution can be used for single-site systems, but it is largely geared towards multi-site trunked networks. However, in May 2013 it launched the Tait DMR Access single site and Tait DMR Express multi-site solution for small to medium-sized networks. The latter two are particularly well suited to the needs of UK customers (see below for more).
Phil Manley, Regional Services Manager EMEA, says: ‘I look after delivery of all aspects of projects in the EMEA region. But it is important to know that the UK Huntingdon office in Cambridgeshire has a specialist Technical and Customer Service Centre, where we develop new and exciting solutions that align with our customers’ particular business needs.
‘If customers have a business need that is not met by an off-the-shelf solution, then we can develop almost anything here that will meet their requirements. Yes, the products are shipped from New Zealand originally, but we then add value here that conforms to the highest standards and approvals anywhere in the world.
‘For example, one recent customer required a deployable disaster relief communications system, which could be loaded onto a helicopter and dropped into areas affected by floods, earthquakes and landslips. It has to be fully integrated into their national system, so they can communicate back to their command and control centre 1,000km away,’ says Manley.
‘We assessed their requirement and developed a P25 solution that is packed into three protective cases with microwave links, a satellite link, dispatchers and hand portable radios. It gives us great satisfaction to be involved in public safety solutions because it involves saving lives.’
He cites another example. ‘During a recent major sporting event there was a need to provide a temporary mobile communication system to help manage the road infrastructure. We created a temporary vehicle-mounted solution, which could be removed without impacting the vehicle. It was a highly cost effective and efficient solution using our engineering expertise to provide emergency communications for a short period of time.’
Continuing UK presence
Chris Yeoman, Channel Sales Executive (UK & Ireland), says: 'The capabilities that Phil mentioned are all based here in the UK. We design and build systems in our Huntingdon technology centre and ship them across EMEA. With the creation of our EMEA head office in Vienna, Huntingdon is very much a key part of our operation to deliver a superior client experience across the region.
‘We are still very much here in Huntingdon, where I am based, and where we have a lot of engineering experience and expertise. If anybody wants to test anything or have a demo, all they need to do is come here. Pretty much any bespoke solution needed by a UK customer can be designed and built here.’
Manley adds: ‘We have a wealth of equipment here, along with a whole suite of test platforms from full DMR kit to P25, conventional QS 2 Simulcast, MPT-IP and MPT1327 analogue. We recently had a dispatcher vendor here who wanted to test a new console to see what they needed to do to integrate their new equipment.
‘I’m about to do a demo for a railway link for another new dispatcher system. They will come up here to see the tests and then sign off on it. The message is: customer and partner support is just a few hours away from you here in Huntingdon.’
Yeoman agrees: ‘All the necessary support is here from the technical side through to project management and installation. If any of our in-house specialists from any stage of the cycle are needed for a meeting or consultation they can be there.’
After sales support
After sales support is, of course, a key issue for PMR customers who work on much longer product life cycles than those using consumer products. At the moment, radios need to be sent back to New Zealand, but Manley reports that Tait is looking carefully at this right now.
He points out that when new products, such as the DMR Tier 3 ones, arrive on the market, there are bound to be a few initial teething problems and it is important that the developers back in New Zealand find out what isn’t working, assess them in detail and remove any glitches before new equipment comes off the production lines.
‘Once we are past that stage we will set up new ways of handling repairs,’ says Manley. ‘We take support extremely seriously, not just the level of that support, but its quality and how we deliver that service. We have invested in better reporting and management tools, such as our Service Cloud, which operates globally.’
Yeoman says: ‘It keeps everyone up to date. So, if one region finds an issue the problem can be highlighted and other regions alerted immediately. That way, the other regions can avoid suffering from the same problem.’
Tait is keen to work with its distributors and partners, although Manley notes it can’t work with everyone all the time, so the choice of partner will be determined by current strategy and this will naturally change over time as the business itself changes.
‘I want them to be contacting airports, shopping centres, transport networks and the like and for us to really support them. We won’t go over their heads, but we will support them on the engineering side. We have some exciting new opportunities out there at the moment that should demonstrate to the UK that Tait is very much present and here to stay,’ emphasises Manley.
‘I have full strategic marketing planning support here,’ adds Yeoman. ‘We needed something that is price competitive for the UK and we now have that in our DMR Access and Express solutions. We’ve only had Access and Express since May 2013, but we will be pushing it and we have the expertise and support to do that here. We will run more open days like the ones we just did in September 2013 and we are working on other marketing proposals for early next year.’
Third party apps
Customers can also expect a wider range of third party apps covering dispatching, AVL, work flow management and location. Yeoman makes the point that this is likely to involve multiple partner solutions, as not everyone will be suited to just one AVL system, for example. ‘We need to offer several options for apps. We have excellent products backed by good engineering and site installation teams, but we will bring in partners for specific things, as we can’t do everything ourselves,’ he notes.
Manley adds: ‘We do want local European partners for apps, although we will use some international ones too, as that makes it easier for us and our customers. We will build our portfolio up and some partners are developing their own apps, so that adds to everyone’s armoury.’
Summing up, Yeoman says: ‘I want people to talk to us, so we can understand their needs. We will come and see them - I will have an Access system I can take on the road - or they can come and see demos here in Huntingdon. Once we understand their needs, we can build a solution for them.’
Introducing Tait DMR Access ...and Tait DMR Express
There is a limited number of large organisations who demand wide area networks in the UK (or a number of other EMEA countries) so Tait has addressed the market need for a simpler, more cost effective solution for single and smaller trunked sites by launching Tait DMR Access and Express. This will provide customers with an easy to deploy, one-stop shop, which will also enable them to integrate some data applications with their radio systems.
Tait DMR Access
Tait DMR Accesss is a single-site trunked solution, which still provides the key benefits of the DMR Tier 3open standard. All that is required for this solution is antennas and a Tait TB9300 base station configured for one or two RF channels. No node controller is needed.
Up to four base stations can be deployed at a site depending on the amount of radio traffic, providing a maximum of 4 RF channels, or thanks to the two-slot TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) technology used, eight slots (1 control slot and 7 transmission slots).
Chris Cant, Product and Solution Specialist at Tait, says: ‘Unlike our main DMR Tier 3 offering you don’t need a node controller for a one site solution. There is a mini-node in the reciter element of the radio in the base station, which provides the necessary functionality.’
Emergency call priority access is available with Express. If all the channels are in use, the system will clear a channel to allow the call to be made. The Access system enables registration of users, but not authentication.
Cant explains that there are no Tait apps available specifically for the Express solution at the moment, but the system is open to third party app integration, such as dispatchers, AVL, workforce management and location apps. Tait DMR Access is available in VHF (148-174MHz), UHF (400-470MHz) and 700-800MHz.
Tait’s DMR TM9300 mobile radio and the TP9300 portable radios are ideal for use with the Express system. The radios can operate in analogue mode too. The terminals support GPS and Bluetooth and as part of the DMR standard come with the advantages of increased channel capacity, longer battery charge duration, digital voice and privacy from casual listeners.
Tait DMR Express
Tait DMR Express is aimed at those customers who want more than 4 RF channels, or those who want to start with a single site, but have the capacity to easily scale up if required.
The network can scale from one to six sites, each consisting of a base stations linked over an IP-backbone to form a wide area network (WAN). The six-site configuration provides a total of 24 RF channels (48 slots). Overlapping base station sectors offer redundancy in the network.
Unlike its smaller Access counterpart, the Express solution does require a node controller. An optional back up node controller can be deployed to provide high availability (redundancy). The node controller comes with dual PMUs and two hard drives providing further built in redundancy.
The node controls all the functions on the network including: managing the subscriber units; communicating directly with the base stations; call set-up and routing; raise alarms in response to fault conditions; generate and store call records. Tait is working with third parties to add voice recording capabilities and playback.
The node controller has network gateways to integrate third party applications and analogue audio. It also has a SIP gateway to provide an interface with telephone PABX and PSTN via an IP connection.
The node also hosts Tait’s Network Management System (NMS), which provides full SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) support. This monitors the performance of the network by polling and logging at intervals to check the current status. It sends alerts of errors, diagnoses problems and generates reports.
Most of the network configuration happens on the node including fleet configuration, partitioning and talk group assignment. The terminals do not have IP addresses at the moment (a trial is in progress though) but the radios can be told an IP address and become part of a network, which is important for AVL, for example.
The control node also provides interfaces to third-party equipment and other networks via a network gateway. Cant says: ‘The difference with Express is that it has the capability to support applications such as dispatching and AVL, as there is a server in this configuration.’
Cant continues: ‘When developing our DMR portfolio we took a lot of trouble to make the migration from analogue to digital as painless as possible. The terminals have a lot more capabilities in them, such as the ability to support short data services to display location and status and broadcast text messages. They can transmit IP packet data for applications such a work order dispatch and so on.
‘The terminals do use more current as a result,’ continues Cant, ‘but because TDMA does not transmit continuously when the receive slot is quiet (this can be used for reverse channelling signalling to tell the radio to do something) – the battery life remains the same as previous analogue models.’
Further network expansion
Cant adds that if customers want to migrate from Tait DMR Express to a larger Tait network they can do so easily via a simple software licence upgrade. Wide area networks can be created with up to 20 nodes. Each node can support up to 100 sites and up to 1,000 RF channels. Multiple Tait networks can then be joined to provide even wider coverage and capacity.