Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions2021-01-06T16:04:30-09:00
WHAT IS THE ALASKA LAND MOBILE RADIO (ALMR) SYSTEM?2021-01-06T15:19:48-09:00

Understanding the answer to this question requires one to understand the cooperative relationship enjoined by the participating federal, state and local public safety entities. That is, that State of Alaska (SOA), Alaska Municipal League, Federal DOD and Federal Non- DOD partnered to address the requirement for security and interoperability, identified a solution and established a migration path to that solution. The objectives of the cooperative is to promote system development by sharing existing resources, burden sharing system costs for operations that maximizes economies of scale, and initiates consolidated procurement and maintenance activities. The result is the ALMR System, which provides the needed communications capability for State, local and federal first responders and public safety entities in Alaska, through an integrated wireless network, that is secure and interoperable, that is cost effective and technologically sound

WHY IS THE ALMR SYSTEM IMPORTANT?2021-01-06T15:20:07-09:00
  • ALMR provides a single, shared and secure interoperable communications system for all emergency responders along the State’s road corridors: SOA, local municipalities, DOD and Federal non-DOD agencies.
  • ALMR satisfies mission and role requirements for 9/11, Homeland Defense, Homeland Security and Defense assistance.
  • ALMR meets the day-to-day needs for all participating agencies.
  • Day-to-day ALMR system use generates the knowledge and expertise of system use when needed for an emergency that requires interoperability across various agencies/jurisdictions.
  • Satisfies FCC mandated Narrow Band requirements for 2012 within ALMR footprint.
  • The ALMR system generates cost efficiencies for all agency users by providing an interoperable communications system that meets dual demands for day-to-day use as well as for higher levels of emergency response and incident command.
  • The ALMR consortium structure generates cost efficiencies for operations and maintenance.
WHAT IS A LAND MOBILE RADIO SYSTEM?2021-01-06T15:20:24-09:00

It is the two-way radio system in use today by first responders and public safety officials for instant, effective, and private communications during everyday operation, and also provides the efficiency, security and flexibility required during emergencies for secure, communications on demand and in real time.

WHAT IS A TRUNKED LAND MOBILE RADIO SYSTEM?2021-01-06T15:20:44-09:00

In two-way radio communications, trunking refers to the automatic sharing of a small number of radio channels between a large numbers of radio users. A trunking system efficiently distributes message traffic among the available channels and reduces channel waiting time.

WHY DO WE NEED A LAND MOBILE RADIO SYSTEM?2021-01-06T15:21:05-09:00

This is a complicated question, but essentially, it is currently the way first responders and public safety officials communicate. The reason that public safety first responders use LMR systems is because they provide a private dedicated wireless communications capability in mobile environments where these agencies primarily operate. The use of other systems such as cellular and the public telephone does not provide by law, the priority and security required by first responders in public safety roles.

ARE OTHER STATES USING LMR?2021-01-06T15:21:40-09:00

Like Alaska, many states are implementing P-25, trunked, voice over IP communications technology like ALMR. ALMR is the name chosen by the ALMR Executive Council for the Alaska system. While states have the latitude to adopt technology they choose for the development of an interoperable communications system, the Federal government has adopted the P-25 technology for LMR communications as its standard and has mandated states seeking federal funding for system development install P-25 compliant systems.

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Delaware
  • Ohio
  • Illinois
  • Oklahoma
  • Indiana
  • South Carolina
  • Iowa
  • South Dakota
  • Kansas
  • Utah
  • Kentucky
  • Wisconsin
  • Minnesota
  • Wyoming
IS THERE A FEDERAL REQUIREMENT TO DEVELOP AN INTEROPERABLE SYSTEM?2021-01-06T15:23:21-09:00

All states were required under the Federal FY 2007 Homeland Security Grant Program to develop and adopt statewide communications interoperability plans by December 2007. The SOA submitted a grant request under the Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) grant program through the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA). This program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Preparedness Directorate requires that interoperability be addressed on a statewide basis. The ALMR System is not a statewide system, but it does cover Alaska’s highway system and population centers.

CAN WE CONTINUE USING OUR CURRENT APPROACH AND SYSTEMS INSTEAD OF CHANGING TO THE ALMR SYSTEM?2021-01-06T15:56:57-09:00

You can. However, it will continue to be inefficient, and interoperability between first responders will continue to be severely handicapped. The State and local governments had to move to a new system that supports narrow band technology and public safety communications standards by Dec 31, 2012, to meet the FCC mandate. The SOA system was over 25 years old, and was in need of replacement when replaced by the ALMR trunked technology. This was an opportunity to implement a cost shared, standards based, communication solution that allows most public safety responders from all levels of government to have interoperable communications for day to day use, when mutual aid is required such as during natural and manmade disasters, and during task force operations such as homeland security roles and missions. It ensures the State and local government Public Safety agencies are in compliance with the FCC narrowband mandate, as well as with the DHS National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP).

WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF NOT PARTICIPATING?2021-01-06T15:24:37-09:00

The increased possibility of a situation of loss of life and property due to the inability of effective interoperable communications between first responders and public safety entities during day-to-day, mutual aid and task force responses.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF COMMUNITIES DO NOT PARTICIPATE?2021-01-06T15:38:16-09:00

The communities that choose not to use the system will continue with their existing systems that don’t provide for full user interoperability for day-to-day, mutual aid and task force situations. Other system interface provisions can be researched to allow some lesser degree of interoperability, but at the detriment of the new infrastructure, which must reduce its capability to that of the lesser connected system at that time.

HOW ARE WE GOING TO HELP PARTS OF ALASKA NOT USING ALMR?2021-01-06T15:25:29-09:00

Currently, the ALMR coverage footprint is primarily in the Interior, Southcentral and Southeast areas of the state. For areas of Alaska not currently within ALMR coverage, the SOA DMVA has coordinated with state and local agencies to develop a plan to address the interoperability needs of those areas.

WHAT HAPPENS IF WE FISCALLY SUPPORT ALMR TODAY AND IT IS NOT SUPPORTED IN FUTURE YEARS?2021-01-06T15:26:18-09:00

The extent of the system build out will depend on the funds allocated to the project. The system is designed with a “building block” approach and can be added to once more funding is identified. Money will not be wasted. However, the System lifecycle operations and maintenance costs are still valid and must be sustained.

WHAT COMMUNICATION STANDARD WILL WE USE FOR THE ALMR SYSTEM AND WHY?2021-01-06T15:36:44-09:00

Standards are required for interoperability and essentially define the overall architecture of the system. The Rockefeller-Morella Act (Public Law 104-113) permits Federal agencies to cite 20110927_ALMR/SATS FAQsV3 8 standards development in an open environment, under the aegis of an accredited voluntary industry standards organization. The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) is one of these organizations. Industry standards for LMR for public safety use are prepared under the auspicious of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and the TIA. This set of standards, known as Project 25 TIA 102 has been selected by the cooperative partnership of the ALMR.

Without adhering to a standard the state, local and federal public safety entities will essentially be compelled to implement system solutions that have the same interoperability and security problems as the as their old systems. There are four barriers to implementing a secure and interoperable LMR capability between the different entities. They are spectrum, technology, planning and funding. Three of the four, spectrum, technology and planning, can be overcome through a cooperative standards approach by the different government public safety entities.

WHY NOT USE FIBER OPTIC CONNECTIVITY INSTEAD OF MICROWAVE?2021-01-06T15:42:43-09:00

Fiber optic connectivity has some potential advantages over microwave technology to link ALMR sites. However, many of the current ALMR sites are constructed in areas without access to existing fiber optic cable. Additionally, using existing sites and infrastructure has substantially reduced the overall costs of implementing ALMR. Operating the ALMR system on the existing State of Alaska Telecommunications Systems (SATS) microwave backbone also provides a stand-alone communication system unencumbered by commercial traffic. Longterm development and expansion of the SATS system requires examining the incorporation of fiber optic connectivity where appropriate, especially as the private telecommunications industry continues to expand its fiber optic footprint.

WHY NOT USE SATELLITES INSTEAD OF MICROWAVE TOWERS?2021-01-06T15:42:55-09:00

ALMR provides communication infrastructure in support of emergency first responders i.e. police, fire, and Emergency Medical Services. By law these agencies are required to communicate via LMR in a specified spectrum range and are “dispatch centric,” meaning they provide the capability for communication from one (dispatch) to many (field units). Radio sites with antennas would still be required to broadcast the signal to the radios carried by the first responders. Additionally, satellite connectivity for day-to-day operations would be considerably more expensive than the current microwave technology to deploy and operate.

WHY NOT HAVE EVERYONE USE GATEWAYS?2021-01-06T15:43:13-09:00

ALMR is installing the Motorola version of gateways named “Motobridge.” Motobridge is an IP-based, software switched technology that allows first responders across disciplines and levels of government to communicate with one another regardless of the type of system or frequencies they normally use. When installed and appropriately programmed, Motobridge allows disparate radios to communicate when necessary, with ALMR radio users through consoles and other portals integral to the ALMR infrastructure. Since public safety is a dispatch centric operation, Motobridge is also dispatch centric in operation, thus maintaining dispatch control of radio traffic. Gateways provide limited, voice only interoperability and require that a donor radio from the disparate radio system be connected to the gateway to allow the radio to communicate, through the gateway, with ALMR radios. Using an ALMR radio on the ALMR system provides full interoperability which is the recommended goal of the Federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

DOES THE ALASKA MARINE HIGHWAY SYSTEM (AMHS) AND THE U.S. COAST GUARD USE ALMR?2021-01-06T15:44:26-09:00

ALMR is a LMR system and by federal law can only be used on land. ALMR uses a different spectrum allocation than maritime radios. AMHS and the U.S. Coast Guard are required to conduct their communications in the maritime band. A gateway can be used to allow communications between land mobile radios and maritime radios when situations require. However, AMHS and the U.S. Coast Guard cannot use ALMR for their day to day maritime operations.

WHAT IS THE STATE OF ALASKA TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM (SATS)?2021-01-06T16:04:16-09:00

SATS is a 155-site microwave infrastructure that provides two major functions:

1. SATS is the backbone of the State’s communications services, outside of Anchorage/Juneau leased circuits, supporting State agency use for:

  • Computer WAN
  • Data (Seismic, SCADA, Differential GPS)
  • Video Conferencing
  • Alaska Rural Communications System (Television)
  • Interstate and Intrastate long distance telephone services
  • Highway call boxes
  • ALMR
  • Dedicated data/voice/video transmission

2. SATS is the backbone of an extensive conventional 2-way radio/paging communications system, primarily outside the area currently served by ALMR. An infrastructure of 240 transmission and repeater sites supports:

  • 9,700 Conventional radios
  • 700 Pagers
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