Motorola quad-band portable radio APX8000

Cross-jurisdictional and intra-jurisdictional radio systems that are incompatible is a problem as old as public safety radio itself. It takes a major catastrophe to suddenly bring together diverse EMS and Police forces on a task needing common radio channels. Yes, preplanned events such as parades and national holiday celebrations also bring EMS and Police in large inter-jurisdictional efforts, but that can be solved with radio system patches or extra radios.

Firefighters mix and match other department resources frequently as big fires can happen anywhere, anytime. One typical solution is to have large numbers of adjoining Fire agencies on common radio technology, such as VHF analog, even when every other public safety resource might be on a P25 digital trunked network system. Another solution is for an incident response van to have a bank of radios that can be patched on-site. In major urban areas, city laws may require installation of distributed antenna systems for local public safety radio–a building-wide built in broadband repeater for public safety in effect.

VHF portable coverage is the worst in general compared to higher frequency (shorter wavelength) radio bands due in large part to high on-body attenuation (up to factor of 100-1000 (20-30 dB)) and high noise levels on VHF, particularly in urban areas. Yet, vast swathes of American fire departments are stuck on VHF due to interoperability concerns and budget constraints. The high cost of the APX8000 won’t necessarily be a solution for rural fire departments, but the adjoining large tax base city might afford the APX8000, allowing the city fire department to upgrade to the regional P25 digital system. The APX8000 in that scenario purchased for the city fire department allows mutual aid from adjoining rural fire departments.

Motorola APX8000 cost/benefit breakdown

Of course the Motorola salesperson isn’t pitching the APX8000 to small budget fire departments. The APX8000 sale goes to the adjoining city fire department, who now doesn’t need a $5000 radio patch that might break down, making a single point of failure in the incident response van. Dispatch isn’t tying up repeaters with console patches, reducing annoyance for those not responding.

A real value add of the APX8000 is the reduction of need for complex fireground or console patches that tie up channels and break down at the worst possible time. Will the whole city get APX8000? Maybe not, but it depends on the historical patterns. They might choose to only get enough APX8000 to cover say 95% of mutual aid needs, and let console patches handle the last 5%. Also, given noise on VHF and a large site to cover for fire, it’s well possible to get out of radio range of the incident response van with the patch (or the central repeater), leading to the constantly dreaded case where you can’t talk to the person next to you on the radio.