General Dynamics to Build Nationwide Integrated Radio System

General Dynamics of Falls Church has won a 15-year, multibillion-dollar contract to build a nationwide interoperable voice and data radio network for federal law enforcement agencies.

The Integrated Wireless Network program, run by the Justice Department with the participation of the Homeland Security and Treasury departments, is intended to provide compatible radio systems to federal police agencies, partly so they can cooperate effectively during terrorist attacks and natural disasters. It will also help the federal police link to state, local and tribal law enforcement networks.

The ceiling value of the IWN project is $10 billion. While the government doesn’t expect to spend quite that much on the work, it set the ceiling at $10 billion “to facilitate use of the contract by other federal agencies that choose to participate in the IWN program,” said Elizabeth Clarke, a Justice Department spokeswoman.

The core IWN radio systems that the program will provide to participating agencies will rely on the Internet Protocol Version 6 standard, the same type of next-generation Internet technology that increasingly will drive the operations of the World Wide Web.

“The federal government study contractor [for the IWN program] recommended an Internet protocol-based solution,” said Jeff Osman, General Dynamics’ executive program manager for IWN. “It opens up the ability to tie together multiple types of radio systems.”

Osman said the IWN project would use various types of gateway systems to mix and match the modern digital radio systems with the old-style analog systems that are still used by many police departments nationwide.

Osman added that the IWN program will benefit from recent advances in both Internet Protocol and trunking technology. Trunked radio allows several simultaneous voice conversations to occur across what formerly was an open circuit dedicated to a single transmission.

Taken together, the new technologies will more than double the number of separate conversations that IWN will be able to carry over a given chunk of bandwidth, according to communications experts.

The IWN infrastructure also can support the transmission of full-motion streaming video to police officers in their patrol cars or on foot.

Osman cautioned that deploying real-time video to individual police officers would require the use of costly bandwidth. “When you consider the options for end users’ devices to be used by the officer in a car, or on foot or at a tactical point, you have to ask, how much information do you want to throw at a person,” he said.

General Dynamics C4 Systems is the company’s business unit that will lead the IWN project. The Scottsdale, Ariz., division is leading an IWN team that includes General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems of Arlington; General Dynamics Information Technology of Fairfax; International Business Machines of Armonk, N.Y.; M/A-Com of Lowell, Mass.; Nortel Government Solutions of Fairfax, and Verizon Wireless of Basking Ridge, N.J.

Source: Washington Post, April 30, 2007

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