Product in the spotlightThe Harris RF-1033M

Published 25 April 2008

Land Mobile Radio for direct, secure multi-agency communications across multiple frequency bands

On 13 February Melbourne, Florida-based Harris Corp. introduced the RF-1033M, the first multiband handheld radio for public safety use that provides direct communications interoperability. Targeted at federal agencies, the RF-1033M enables integrated transmission and reception and covers multiple frequency bands for improved efficiency for first responders in emergency situations.

The RF-1033M represents a broadening into civilian applications for Harris, the world’s leading supplier of multi-mission software-defined radios for military use. It produced the RF-1033M in response to the need of federal agencies for a reliable and affordable multiband communications. Currently, public safety agencies use single-banded radios, making it difficult to talk with each other, particularly during emergency events of a major scope, in which different agencies collaborate.

Kevin Kane, director of U.S. business development for Harris, whose RF Communications Division, Located in Rochester, New York, designed the radio, told Homeland Security Daily Wire, “We have recognized an urgent need for a multiband land mobile radio. Emergency personnel have enough on their hands without having to solve interoperability on the fly.

There is no need to belabor that point, given our painful memory, as a nation, of Ground Zero on 9/11, when New York City police officers and firefighters could not communicate, and we will not soon forget the feeble response of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. FEMA is reported to be examining its administrative structure with an eye to improvement, but in the last analysis - and in the next catastrophe, natural or otherwise - it will be judged on performance. The equipment at its disposal at that time will be key. The same can be said of every agency entrusted with an aspect of public safety, but a casual review discloses a national, state, and local communications “system” that is a collection of devices.

Giving an example, Kane said, “In Florida, the FBI, the Coast Guard, and the DEA all use different networks and frequency ranges. Agencies can’t communicate with one another or with people on a scene, unless the speakers carry two radios or employ a system interface.”

Harris Corp. believes that the way to ensure fail-safe communications is through a general-purpose device that covers multiple frequency bands. The RF-1033M allows disparate networks to initiate and maintain radio contact with each other without resorting to external or awkward solutions.

There is no argument about the importance of radio communications. This is an area of vital interest not only to the Department of Homeland Security but also to Congress, the National Governors’ Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the 9/11 Commission - all of which have identified public safety communications interoperability as an urgent national priority and are unanimous in calling for it.

Though initially targeting U.S. agencies, Harris foresees wider demand for multiband technology as the complexity of the tasks facing civilian authorities heightens the need for interoperability. The company is having comprehensive conversations with civilian agencies to continue to understand the full range of their needs.

The RF-1033M is compliant with APCO Project 25 (P25), the technical standard for digital public safety radio communications developed by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials. The P25 standard is the fundamental building-block in enabling interoperable public safety communications at the state, federal and local levels.

Harris intends to complement the RF-1033M with successive products built upon its heritage as a leading supplier of software-defined tactical military radios. The company’s Falcon family of radios is used by the U.S. Department of Defense and ministries of defense around the world to allow warfighters to talk to each other in a range of challenging circumstances.

Having multiband capability in a single radio is an elegant solution,” Kevin Kane said. “And we’re able to offer it at an affordable price that is competitive with solutions utilizing but a single frequency band.”

Demonstrations of the RF-1033M are available from Harris’s RF Communications Division, where the radio is in full production and available for immediate shipment.