As the airwaves get busier and busier, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is focused on finding ways to make certain the broadbrand spectrum is used efficiently. A few years back, we were introduced to Digital TV , which helped free up parts of the broadcast spectrum for public safety communications, as well as improving picture and sound quality, and enabling multiple programming choices, interactivity, and more. Now the FCC has issued a new Narrowbanding Mandate that is forcing anyone with a public radio frequency license or equipment to use it more efficiently. The reason is that we need to make room for new mobile spectrum technology and the insatiable demand for more mobile bandwidth.
Much like the Digital TV Transition, Narrowbanding will mean wholesale upgrades of equipment including radios, base stations, and broadcast towers for companies using this spectrum. In addition, the distances over which the system will work due to lost signal propagation under the new rules must be considered because it will be smaller. In the end, it will mean a large capital outlay for less coverage.
The need has never been greater for a service to replace radio communications for businesses, but in a world where cellular smart phones dominate, will there be demand for short, private, broadcast messaging like those going over the radio airwaves today? Will the crackly declaration “Calling all cars,” perish from our vocabulary?
Enhanced PTT raises the bar
Enhanced Push-To-Talk (PTT) service is radio broadcast-like messaging over the cellular network, and it is a hot new product. Let’s take a look at some of the new ways new Enhanced Push-To-Talk is going to not only improve and replace existing radio and older PTT service, but also bring it to a whole new level.
1. The cost of maintaining a private radio network is about to dramatically shrink by using Enhanced PTT from AT&T and other cellular carriers. Using off-the-shelf cellular equipment, whether it is ruggedized or not, lowers the barrier of entry for any company to use radio-like capabilities. There is no need to maintain antennae or base stations. That is now part of the carrier cellular network. Warranty and replacement of cellular is much easier and less expensive than most of the new FCC mandated radio equipment now on the market.
2. Enhanced PTT devices are much more than just radios. Equipped with GPS, calendar, camera, and the ability to interface with scanning equipment, Enhanced PTT devices are veritable Swiss Army Knives for any mobile workforce. Calls can be logged and directed to the employee closest to a job site. Analytics around employee efficiency generated from the device will identify training gaps or gaps in process.
3. Enhanced PTT is a logical extension of Mobile Workforce Management applications that exist today. In the near future, applications will interface with Enhanced PTT to intelligently send radio messages from dispatchers to the most qualified employees who are closest to a new job. Mobile Applications can check and update calendars and log new jobs based on voice responses to the dispatcher. Dispatchers will know automatically who has time on their schedules and will be able to electronically get them the needed ‘digital paperwork’ for the additional jobs.
4. Mobile employees, such as garbage truck operators, school bus and taxi drivers, are not the only mobile workers who will benefit. Enhanced PTT will work over corporate WIFI networks on the manufacturing or warehouse floor in the near future. Offloading seamlessly between the cellular network and the internal WIFI network gives Enhanced PTT more versatility with many of the same features mentioned above. Employees can be quickly found and dispatched to where they are needed. They are constantly in communication, even on a noisy shop floor.
Enhanced PTT provides one more layer of communication in an ever-expanding suite of services. Just like text or electronic chat, short radio-like messages may become a future part of our common communications vernacular for the first time since walkie-talkies were cool back in the fourth grade.