25 Years of P25

The open P25 Standard for  public safety radio systems has been around for 25 years now (in 2014), as I was reminded  at both the APCO International Conference and again last week at the APCO Canada conference. Both conferences made a point of looking back at the history of this important standard and celebrating the milestone with cake!

When I first started in Public Safety in 1997, P25 had been around for about 8 years and was just getting itself established. It was in Phase 1 and I think systems were just starting to be offered, and only by a manufacturer or two. Since I was involved with a new EDACS system, the whole P25 standard was just a point of interest, something to keep an eye on for the future. As we were expecting the EDACS system to have a useful life until at least 2010 my thought (in the early 2000’s), was that we would probably skip over P25, as surely there would be a newer and greater standard out by that time. I remember expecting that by that time we needed a new system we’d be able to choose some standard that would cover voice and high-speed data in a single system. It just goes to show how wrong we can be.

Here we are in 2014 and P25 is going strong, still picking up momentum even. That momentum has been picking up since 9/11 and other high profile incidents that emphasized the need for interoperability between an array of public safety responders. No doubt P25 will be stronger and more prevalent in 5 years than it is today. I’ve heard pundits say that P25 will be around for another 25 years! While I think that may be a bit optimistic, I have been wrong before. With Phase 2 just being rolled out and as standards and interfaces continue to be worked upon and defined, I think P25 is being re-born and any of the P25 systems being put in, in the next 3 to 5 years should have a life of at least 15 years – so another 25 years for the standard does indeed look feasible.

I’ve heard a number of industry experts comment that dedicated Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems for public safety voice communications aren’t going away any time soon and as long as theses systems are around I have to think that P25 will be the first choice for the public safety industry.

I do believe that LTE systems will make in-roads for public safety data communications and carrying voice over such networks is inevitable but it remains to be seen if there will be any solid business case to prematurely retire the P25 systems being but in today and the near future.

So Happy Birthday P25 – here’s to another 25!

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