Case Study: Emergency Services Network WESCOM 911 Turns to Exalts Microwave Backhaul

An Illinois-based public safety organization needed a better way to run its dispatch services for member police and fire departments.

Channel Partners

February 15, 2011

3 Min Read
Case Study: Emergency Services Network WESCOM 911 Turns to Exalts Microwave Backhaul

Founded in 1992, WESCOM 911 provides emergency dispatch services to member towns and public safety agencies in central Illinois. Plainfield, Ill.-based WESCOM serves seven police departments and 12 fire departments in western Will County near Joliet, covering nearly 300,000 residents.

The Challenge

800MHz public safety radio is the lifeblood of police and fire communications, and WESCOM 911 operates four large VHF radio systems that supply voice communications for its member agencies. Each police and fire agency broadcasts VHF radio to its service units, and the agencies themselves are tied to WESCOM via direct backhaul connections. Since its founding, WESCOM has used leased phone lines to link the agencies with WESCOM headquarters. But at a cost of more than $450 per line per month, WESCOM was paying dearly for those lines.

We have to watch our budget like any public agency, and we started looking for a way to reduce our communications costs,” said Steve Rauter, executive director of WESCOM. We did an ROI analysis on replacing the leased phone lines with microwave links, and found that by deploying microwave systems, we could cancel the leased lines, and the microwave systems would pay for themselves by eliminating the monthly leasing costs.”

The Solution

To identify a microwave solution, the team at WESCOM consulted with other Will County agencies with microwave deployments; those entities recommended Exalt Communications backhaul equipment for its reliability, cost-effectiveness and simple deployment. Exalt supplies both licensed and license-exempt microwave backhaul to government agencies, service providers and enterprises worldwide; the products can use the 4.9GHz licensed radio band, reserved for public agencies. In addition, Exalt offers high reliability on its microwave links, so that, in many cases, dependability outweighs that of the phone lines.

So, WESCOM chose to work with Exalt partner A Beep of Joliet, IL to deploy 4.9GHz Exalt all-outdoor microwaves, replacing WESCOMs leased phone line connections. A Beep pre-configured and test all of the gear in its own facility to ensure installation would go smoothly.

The all-outdoor equipment connects to the network via a coaxial Ethernet cable, and power is supplied to the units using power-over-Ethernet (PoE). Each microwave is approximately one foot square and mounts on a radio tower. The network is configured as a four-point diamond, with each point of the diamond linking to two other points to create a high degree of redundancy. The longest distance between the points of the diamond is 14 miles. In addition, the equipment carries four T-1 lines (with MUX) plus 55mbps of Ethernet. We primarily have voice radio systems to support analog VHF so we mostly use T-1 connectivity to carry the radio traffic,” said Rauter. However, we also carry some Ethernet for site-monitoring information.”

While the Ethernet links are underused at this point, Rauter plans to take better advantage of them. We will eventually deploy e-mail cards in our radios [uninterruptible power supply] systems so we can get e-mail reports from them.” Rauter also plans to interconnect his agencys network with the one from nearby Grundy County to better coordinate regional emergency response services.

Rauter also said the microwave platform stabilizes VHF simulcast, where the same transmission is broadcast on the same frequency from multiple towers at the same time. This covers more area without requiring a large number of channels. We needed a stable method of connectivity before we could even consider VHF simulcast, but we get that stability using Exalt microwave backhaul systems,” Rauter said.

Exalts microwave products were easy to deploy and there have been no major service issues since it was installed in the fall of 2009. The systems have been completely reliable, even during snowstorms,” said Rauter. We get as good or better service than we did with the phone lines, and we no longer have the monthly leased line costs.”

By moving to Exalt microwave backhaul for its communications infrastructure, WESCOM has eliminated the monthly recurring cost of leased phone lines, and now has a wholly owned network that delivers highly reliable service for its critical communications role.

Charlie Rubin is a freelance writer based in Alameda, Calif.

Read more about:

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like