Is It Time to Replace Your Legacy Hardware With IP-Based Communications?

Technology can either help or hinder your business operations. This is especially true when it comes to telecommunications systems. You have two viable options for audio and data processing. You can keep your legacy hardware or upgrade to IP-based communications? To make the best decision, you must weigh the pros and cons of each.

Legacy Hardware

Legacy is another way of saying old. Although legacy devices have been around for decades, they are still widely used across various industries. The rise of new IP solutions calls into question the viability of using legacy hardware. Despite this, older technology has its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

There are a few reasons to continue using legacy hardware. The most obvious reason is that it still works. Additionally, team members know the old system, which helps maintain continuity within a company. Finally, people like familiarity. They can use the system without the need for significant support or technical assistance. There is also a significant investment required to update hardware, software and the resources required to implement changes to IP based communications is cost prohibitive at this time.

Cons

There are downsides to legacy hardware that make IP-based architecture a more desirable option. Here are a few drawbacks:

  • Legacy hardware delivers a Lower ROI
  • Older Systems Create a Greater security threat
  • Discontinued tech support
  • Time-consuming data exportation
  • Stored information at a physical location or local device

IP-Based Communications

IP-based technology relies on a voice switch system. It differs from legacy TDM networks because it has nodes or intelligent endpoints. These node switches contain all the audio summing resources, data, processing and switching capabilities needed to run properly. Additionally, they use standard and Ethernet links for transporting communications.

Pros

There are benefits to using IP voice switches. It is cost-efficient because there is no need to invest in additional electrical wiring and outlets. Security features are built-in. It is capable of giving multiple users access to common communication assets. Switches are an ideal combination of performance, flexibility and functionality. They allow for interoperability from an IP based PBX console with radio over IP devices used by first responders and security personnel.

Cons

Embracing new technology, like Fiber Optic voice conference switches, does have its challenges. It can slow down user productivity during the learning curve. There may be operators still using older radio dispatch consoles but ramping up to IP based radio consoles is a much easier transition than you may think. Plus, the initial cost may be too high for organizations that have a tight IT budget.

Rely on Proven Solutions

Keep the old technology or bring in with the new tech? That is a question business stakeholders face regarding legacy hardware versus IP-based communications. Finding communication engineers that support legacy hardware is more difficult today. What you decide depends on factors, such as cost, dependability and performance. For many companies, upgrading to voice switches is the only way to go.

Bridging the Voice Gaps With Switching Technology

Switching establishes connections between telecommunication network nodes or routes. In the past, switchboard operators manually switched connections so that people were able to communicate through telephone networks. Today, switching technology is highly advances allowing digital voice packets travel between IP addresses within telecommunications networks. Let’s take a look at some of the basics.

Switching Technology Basics

The technology includes local, tandem and transit switches. Telecommunications providers use local switches to support specific areas and tandem switches to connect various switches within a network. Transit switches support long-distance connections. The three main switching types are circuit, packet and message. Here’s a little more information about each type.

  1. Circuit Switching

One of the most common switching types, circuit switching enables data transmission by establishing a dedicated route between the sender and the receiver. For data transmission to occur, a link must be set up, held and released. The route is set the instant the connection is active, and the connection lasts for the length of the conversation.

  1. Packet Switching

As its name implies, packet switching organizes data in packets or blocks. Each packet features a header that includes source, destination and node address details. It then reaches its destination via different routes. This type of independent routing reduces bandwidth load and overcomes transmission interruptions. In some telecommunications networks, such as cellular communications, packet switching incurs a fee per unit of transmitted data.

  1. Message Switching

Message switching is the transmission of a message through radio and telecommunications networks. While circuit switching involves a dedicated route between the sender and receiver, message switching does not rely on dedicated routes. Each message has its own destination source address and the network treats it as an independent entity. The network can send it on the most efficient route through a system of intermediate devices until it reaches its destination. Message switching relies on storage and forwarding and is also known as Store and Forward Switching. Email is a prime example of message switching.

Learn More About Switching Technology

Working for a communications system company in the USA, we are required to fully understand digital switching technologies. At a local level, we can configure and install an E1 switch for companies that seek to manage internal telecommunications traffic more effectively. Some clients are seeking more secure voice communications through packet encryption. So we need to install an encryption device that secures conversations before the data packets leaves the private networks of that company.

Any IP Network Can Be Used With RoIP Technology

There is nothing new about Voice over IP, the technology was originally developed back in 1973 but not commercially embraced until the year 2000 when companies like Cisco, 3Com and Lucent Technologies began making hardware to allow for the digitization of analog voice and data into packets. Early adopters were using the public internet to transport these data packets although the clarity and integrity of these voice packets were often of a poor quality that consumers were willing to pay for. Today all the major IP Telephony players like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T have invested heavily in building out IP networks and have engineered high quality digital switching solutions that has revolutionized the way we communicate. Businesses, municipalities and government institutions of all sizes have built public and private network gateways to the internet and these access points can be found virtually everywhere. Radio over IP takes advantage of these IP gateways.

How do RoIP works?

Much like VoIP technology, RoIP digitizes and transmits radio signals from one IP address to another by converting analog voice and data signals into data packets but it uses slightly different engineering methodologies.

Traditional analog radio sends voice data using transmission towers or copper lines using a specific frequency along the radio spectrums of VF, VHF & UHF. There is a need for an expensive hardware infrastructure to send and receive these signals.

Today, radio over IP is delivered as digital packets via existing internet pathways using an existing infrastructure, we just need access to those networks. Wi-Fi, LAN and WAN networks provide that access but there still needs to be a bridge. These radio IP gateways as we call them is the bridge you need to gain access. This IP gateway often requires a vocoder to convert analog signals to digital packets and seek out local and wide area networks that we can use to gain access to the internet. This page here explains what is radio over IP in greater detail.

What are the benefits of RoIP?

It is cost-effective

Most organizations that rely of two way radio communications have invested in analog hardware and have been using that equipment successfully for years. Upgrading to digital mobile radio solutions throughout the organization can get too expensive to undertake all at once. Radio over IP solutions deployed by a legitimate communications systems provider in PA can configure radio IP gateways and vocoders for 4 and 8 units at a time at a fraction of the cost to purchase new radio hardware. This solution can be rolled out in increments rather than an all in one solution. The IP networks used for transport already exist so there is no new investment required for the transportation of signals and power requirements for radio signal transport are minimal.

Enhanced interoperability and flexibility

RoIP allows for enhanced interoperability and flexibility with SIP phones, VoIP phones and cellular networks since it has the ability to connect various information systems or applications in a coordinated manner, Your provider of radio communications hardware should be able to pre-program your radio control system for the different platforms that your users will be interacting with. Each organization is different in how they will employ radio over IP. Using a radio over IP interface that is customized to your specific needs will help your organization leverage improved radio communication technologies more cost effectively.

The Importance of Communication Following a Natural Disaster

After a hurricane has ravaged an area, such as the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael in the panhandle of Florida, it is critical for communication to be established with utility restoration teams as soon as possible. Many times companies will send linemen and technicians from all over the country to help restore electricity, water, and communication to a community. Restoring communication isn’t just important for the community, but it is critical to the success and safety of those working to clean up the damage.

Cell Phones Aren’t Practical

Even though many people feel their cell phone will keep them connected during an emergency, natural disasters absolutely have the potential for damaging the cell phone infrastructure. Emergency responders and cleanup crews are ineffective if they are unable to communicate with a dispatcher, understand a coordinate where assistance is needed, obtain driving or navigation instructions during hazardous conditions, and send a request for supplies. Natural disasters often cause unstable working conditions, such as downed power lines, fragile networks and crumbling structures can create safety hazards. The ability to instantly communicate with one another in these situations can save lives.

Connecting With the Community

Keeping response crews safe isn’t the only job of reliable communications after a natural disaster. If there was very little warning and time to prepare, it is important to connect with schools, churches, businesses, and other installations concerning evacuation, aid, or shelters. Without the dependable system to communicate that isn’t susceptible to drastic weather interference, it can be a dangerous and chaotic situation as the community tries to move to safety and implement preparedness plans.

High-tech Radios

Building out a network for reliable radio communications is a step in the right direction. A RoIP for utility and cleanup crews allows for two way radio communications between men in the field and a central dispatch can speak freely over frequencies not hindered by cellular and telco communication sensitivities. These IP networks for radio communications use low voltage LAN and WAN hardware and have flexibility. With the right devices, crews can establish secure mobile communications and connect in two-way conversations much like a telephone call. In a situation where distance, obstacles, and power failures are interfering with connectivity, RoIP gateways allow for push to talk devices to be connected through a single home base. With options for connectivity from an IP address, it can support the analog radio functions with more reliability, greater reach, and interoperability.

Stay in the Know

There are several ways a community can stay connected following a natural disaster, and a community’s use of all options can improve chances for a faster, safer recovery. Traditional television warnings and cell phone notifications are great ways to stay informed, but in the event the power is out, these may not be received in time. Social media networks can also offer assistance in locating people, understanding the conditions, and sending messages, but once again, this is only effective if there is power or a cell phone has internet service available. Using a radio over IP interface and RoIP for a fleet of utility vehicles will provide you with more reliable communications when you need it most.

Radio Over IP Provides Reliable Communication for Bus Fleets

Reliable communication is vitally important for a bus fleet for reasons of safety as well as logistics. However, the analog communication systems used in the past to connect fleet drivers and dispatchers have distinct disadvantages when it comes to reliability. Drivers that have to drive long distances on their routes may travel out of range of the traditional land mobile radio system. Additionally, geographic features and topographic variations can interfere with the operation of an analog LMRS system. Transportation companies are increasingly turning to radio over IP systems to increase both the range and reliability of communications, as well as reaping additional benefits.

What Exactly Is RoIP?

To understand what radio over internet protocol means, it is first necessary to understand its predecessor: voice over IP. VoIP involves voice and data communication over the internet as opposed to the analog system which delivered voice communications over a system of traditional telephone networks, T1 lines and copper wires. VoIP involves converting the sound waves into digital signals for transmission via broadband and then translating them back into audio signals once they have reached their destination.

Radio over IP functions according to the same principle as VoIP and utilizes the same type of technology. The main difference is that RoIP converts two way radio signals between two points. Analog radio communications uses VHP and UHF frequencies, In the digital space, the voice data is converted into digital voice packet and now piggyback existing IP networks.

Why is RoIP More Reliable?

With an analog radio system, communication can be disrupted by geographic features that can interfere with the transmission of radio waves. These include hills, mountains, buildings with thick walls, tall or dense trees, etc. Since RoIP communication takes place over existing LAN and wide area networks, the digital voice packets and not impacted by physical features and are uninterrupted data packets. The lack of interference makes it more reliable.

Even the most sophisticated LMRS has limitations to its range of functionality. If a fleet driver travels beyond that area from necessity, communication can no longer take place between the driver and dispatch and/or other members of the fleet. Gateways for RoIP systems are the tools that convert the voice signals to digital packets and therefore are very important to the entrance into the IP networks they will travel. IP networks are as ubiquitous today as cell phones. Evan an eskimo in a remote region of Alaska can access the internet today.

Outages are a concern for anyone who uses the public internet but in most cases, RoIP communications tap into private networks for travel. Providers understand the need for consistent services when providing RoIP for transportation and therefore the routing configurations are a key ingredient when programing the gateway for RoIP systems. Therefore, the networks they are programed for are set up to continue to function fully even during a partial failure. The rare outages that do occur are usually resolved quickly.

What Are Additional Benefits of RoIP for a Fleet?

In addition to increased reliability, radio over IP offers additional benefits to a transportation company:

  • Interoperability
  • Speed
  • Affordability

From the point of view of the end-user, there may be little discernible difference between RoIP and traditional LMRS. The former’s interoperability allows drivers and dispatchers to use the same legacy devices to which they are already accustomed, while at the same time enjoying the additional benefits of clarity and reliability. Because the investment into hardware is minimal, RoIP for a fleet of buses, service vehicles or event a network metropolitan trains is a less expensive way for a fleet to upgrade their communications. RoIP for transportation networks is more common in 2019 than ever before. The technology is sound and chances are your communications system provider can point you in the right direction.

Voice and Video Conferencing Technology in the IP World of VoIP

Video conferencing is becoming an increasingly important part of how today’s companies do business. Throughout various sectors, companies are opting to conduct long-distance meetings and conversations via videoconferencing rather than the traditional conference call. The benefits of this approach include improved communication and stronger relationships. When video is not optimal for whatever reason, a high-quality voice conferencing system is best for facilitating the effective communication you may need.

For this reason, it is important to source voice and video conferencing technology that is cost-effective, reliable and meets your company’s specific needs. High-quality imaging is a must to reap the benefits of video conferencing, especially when you need to display video or image content. Priorities for this technology often include high audio and video quality as well as transmission speed.

Circuit Switching and Packet Switching

Standard phone systems use circuit switching to transmit data. This means the system selects a specific path to transmit all the data from the conference. This route is only used for that data so long as the session continues. Because you pay for the exclusive use of the bandwidth, this method tends to be more costly. Some types of videoconferencing use circuit switching.

The most common protocol for video and audio conferencing is packet switching, which uses IP-based networks. This protocol converts the information to a sequence of packets, then sends them. Each packet travels through the network separately. Because these routes are also used by others, this method does not cost as much.

On the other hand, this protocol on its own can result in a lower transmission quality, as the data packets do not have a dedicated circuit open for them and compete with other data traveling along the same route. VoIP uses packet switching; a high-quality communication systems provider will typically use additional protocols to increase reliability and transmission quality. There are also several methods to keep network conditions from affecting quality.

Types of Systems

Conferencing technology systems can come in a variety of configurations. These include systems that individuals can use on desktop computer or full featured smartphone. Set-ups for large audiences in a single room often rely of broadcast quality bandwidth dedicated to that production. A configuration optimal for conferencing in a large number of people in disparate locations may use an IP voice switch for the audio and a larger bandwidth on the same IP network for the video packets. Some video conferencing systems may have a voice switch baked into the system, allowing one person to speak and appear at a time. Others create the atmosphere of a meeting by showing everyone simultaneously.

Radio Over IP

Some companies, such as those operating mobile fleets, need to integrate their radio network to work over IP. VoIP to radio switching can be a cost-effective and reliable way to connect radio users and operators via dispatching hardware. Because the IP protocol can route the audio to a wide variety of radio types, it can make system-wide integration easier.

Benefits of Using Radio Over IP as Part of the Utility Storm Preparedness Plan

Utility workers need to communicate within a municipality during a storm. Communication is essential to shoring up flood areas, blocking off low water crossings overflowing with water, finding storm shelters, fixing downed power lines, testing the accessibility of clean water and more. Radio over IP helps workers go beyond the current analog signals. RoIP networks offer better interoperability and greater reliability if the local Wan or Lan access is still up and running. RoIP gateways can be the ticket to improved storm preparedness for your utility company.

Improved Function

Storm preparedness plans often include radios as the communication method of choice to deliver necessary information between various departments including utility companies, military personnel, emergency services and municipality offices. Relying only on radio frequencies can mean intermittent communication during a raging storm. Radio over internet protocol uses the internet to send and receive messages. Analog signals are converted to digital signals that travel over IP networks with a vocoder. These digital voice packets are protected with routers and firewalls using what is currently securing the IP network. The added avenues for communication allowed by RoIP for municipalities improves communications for improved efficiency and effective deployment of the storm preparedness plan. When departments can communicate with each other, they can effectively communicate with residents, help affected residents faster and set up barriers efficiently.

Cost Effective

Leveraging RoIP for municipalities is a cost-effective way to streamline effective communications between the various entities mobilized during a storm. RoIP gateways allow the utility companies to use existing LAN lines whether private or public without having to build new pathways for communication. The cost savings of RoIP for utility workers allows for more money to go toward necessary emergency items such as sand bags, storm shelters and life-saving equipment.

Improved Interoperability

Radio signals can send their digitized communications over IP networks. Interconnecting RoIP for utility workers with SIP enabled devices, cell phones and VoIP phones allows the workers to tap a larger network. Communicating between departments and units is faster and more reliable. Installing RoIP for municipalities as part of the storm preparedness plans ensures the utility companies receive training and practice to employ the devices with accuracy during an emergency. Using more than one pathway to communicate naturally increases the reliability of radio communication systems.

The benefits of RoIP for utility workers cannot be overstated. When it comes to storm preparedness, radios can be life savers. Increasing their effectiveness and reliability helps residents and workers alike. Homeowners wishing to increase their ability to communicate with the outside world during a storm may benefit from RoIP if they have the necessary devices.