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Public officials frustrated with slow P25 progress

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A public safety official decried before a Congressional panel Sept. 23 what he said is too much vendor participation in a decades-long effort to set standards for interoperable radio communications.

The interoperability effort, known as Project 25 or P25, was begun in 1989 but so far has more or less completed only two of the eight standards required to ensure full interoperability of land mobile radio systems made by different manufacturers.

During a hearing before the House Science and Technology subcommittee on technology and innovation, Tom Sorley, deputy director of radio communications technology for the city of Houston, said vendors have been able to dedicate more time and personnel to P25. "In reality, this means that the standards is being driven by the active participants--vendors," Sorley wrote in his prepared statement.

Because P25 could ultimately convert land mobile radio into a commodity product driven by price rather than by features, vendors lack an incentive to make the process go quickly, Sorley asserted. "Basically we're asking people to cooperatively work together to develop a standard that negatively impacts their business."

Witnesses testifying before the congressional panel did not include a representative of any radio manufacturer. However, in a past hearing before the same subcommittee, manufacturer officials pointed to factors other than duplicity or greed for the pace of standards development.

"This, by any sense, is a fairly small, specialized industry," said Ernest Hofmeister, a senior scientist at radio manufacturer Harris Corp, while testifying before the panel on May 27. "The scale makes a difference in the amount of resources that can be devoted to standards."

During the hearing, officials also expressed discontent with the slow pace of standards development.

"The slow pace of the development of the Project 25 Standards has created some frustration in the radio user community," said Russ Sveda, manager of the Interior Department's radio technical service center. "We have invested 14 years in this technology and today we are still unable to design and install a Project 25-compliant system without significant engineering and customization," he added.

 For more:
- go to the subcommittee hearing webpage, complete with written statements, or go directly to the webcast  

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Boyd: P25 doesn't necessarily mean interoperable