LCRA Provides Access on a New Radio Network
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), Austin, Texas, was formed by the State of Texas in 1934 as a Water Reclamation District and wholesale electric services provider. It serves approximately 800,000 Central Texans through 44 wholesale customers. They have recently agreed to purchase two-way radio equipment from Ericsson in a contract worth up to $34 million as LCRA expands its core business as a wholesale electricity provider to parts of 58 counties in Central Texas. With plans to install the new 50-site system during the next two years, LCRA is on the leading edge of a trend in which utility companies are selling access to their mobile radio networks to non-utility users. Participants would pay a fee that will help LCRA recover its network investment and buildup costs. In this case, LCRA will offer dispatch radio services to its customers and communities.
According to LCRA officials, a key to the new arrangement is sophisticated wide-area capabilities provided by Ericsson`s Enhanced Digital Access Communications System (EDACS) technology, which offers a dramatic capacity increase from the old LCRA network. EDACS allows multiple user-groups to maintain priority access to channels and still hold private conversations for routine activities. This allows communications between various groups to coordinate joint responses.
For example, when LCRA responds to a call for downed power lines, police on the system have the option to hear, with simple system adjustments, how the utility plans to correct the problem and jointly form strategies for directing traffic away from the scene. Police and ambulance on the system, while immediately able to access private channels in emergencies, can still communicate directly with each other for mutual response calls. Users no longer will be forced to coordinate their related duties through their dispatchers, as is the case for those with separate radio systems.
EDACS can also support advanced applications such as transmitting voice and data on common channels. Public safety users could tap into federal databases containing images of wanted criminals and do license plate checks. They can also file reports on mobile laptops to reduce voice dispatch traffic and save time. The shared networks would also reduce costs for each participating agency.
According to Larry Krenek, LCRA Telecommunications marketing manager, public safety users are leading candidates for the shared network. He adds, “The ability of diverse agencies to communicate up and down the river in situations where multiple agencies must respond will be a tremendous asset to all parties involved.”