Optima Group approached Comms Spec to find a two-way radio solution for an upcoming event in Glasgow in 2021. The client required highly secure radio comms equipment to use across multiple sites, which were located close to each other. The client also requested a back-up mobile system.
Optima Group were tasked with managing security and transport in various locations around Glasgow, Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. It was their uttermost priority to keep world leaders and other significant public figures safe at their accommodation, and to secure their transportation in high-security compounds for the duration of the event up in Scotland.
Our task was to support Optima Group with top quality radio equipment with advanced technology for clear and reliable comms and coverage.
Due to the contract delays that Optima Group experienced before the event, we had very little time to set up the communications systems. What would normally take a month to plan and prepare, had to be done in two weeks. Our excellent radio technicians went above and beyond to deliver the systems in record time.
Using our knowledge of the features of the Motorola DMR radios, in particular the top of the range DP4 series, we set out to create a system that:
- Covered multiple sites, which were often local to each other, so interference had to be avoided between each site.
- Included ample coverage for each site.
- Had highly secure comms.
- Allowed users to be hands-free as much as possible.
- Had clear and reliable comms and coverage.
We were also tasked with creating a mobile back-up system between the hub commanders and sites, in case there were cellular security breaches, overload or failure.
Process and Solutions
Our radio technicians created a frequency allocation spreadsheet where they allocated specific frequencies to each site making sure there was enough distance between sites with the same frequency. We also used DMR’s colour coding feature so that the radio only opened up to the receiving signal if the programmed frequency and colour code were correct.
To cater to the high-security needs, we gave each channel its own unique 10-bit encryption key, made sure the radio was set to ignore any clear data channels and changed the call ID of the radio to a less used ID number. Combining all of the above made the comms fully secure from both incoming and outgoing traffic.
Due to the time constraints, we opted for using radio coverage prediction software and set the parameters to replicate handheld radios operating in a central location on site and recorded the prediction. We then programmed a further repeater channel into each site group to better serve such a prestigious event. We added the repeater channel and tested it off-site which created a plug and play situation in the event a repeater is required on site. This meant Optima Group saved the cost of hiring unnecessary repeaters and the labour of a survey and installation.
We supplied the company with 2-wire earpieces, which would connect to the radio, go up to the ear with a separate wire for the PTT and Mic. This meant that the user could wear the earpiece, have the radio on their belt, and run the PTT and Mic down their sleeve. This also means that they could conceal the radio and earpiece under clothing and therefore maintain a covert appearance.
In order for us to build a back-up system between the hub commanders and the sites, we had to think outside the box. We knew the sites of accommodation did have reliable Wi-Fi available, and that the remote sites that weren’t in range of Wi-Fi did have cellular connections.
We sought out a free-roaming data sim that operated through a private APN. When you operate through a private APN, you are operating on your own private gateway through this network and therefore it’s fully secure. Optima Group now had roaming data sims, which meant they were able to switch to the most effective network from any GSM tower in the UK. This gave us resilience in data overload and meant that the hub commanders were fully mobile and secure. This was ideal as we could now allocate a smartphone device to each location which was either connected via a private APN data roaming sim or via the local Wi-Fi.
Due to the new device requirement now being a smartphone, we discovered it would be ideal to use the brand-new platform from Motorola called Motorola WAVE PTX. This is an IP based radio system that operates over IP rather than RF. WAVE PTX operates in the same way as a radio in that you can have instant back-to-back comms with the press on the PTT button on screen. There is also added features, such as direct messaging, group calls and location tracking. All of which could be used to improve the security protocol on site and help the hub managers have full control of their team from any location. There is also the added security of all data that travels through WAVE PTX being end -to-end encrypted.
Experience and Conclusions
This was a challenging project not only in terms of the time frame, but also the complexity and prestige of the event, making it highly rewarding to work on. We were very pleased with the end results, and we look forward to working with Optima Group again.
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