With 340 dedicated sites spanning a territory the size of 10 U.S. states, the Alberta First Responders Radio Communications System (AFRRCS) is the largest single Project 25 (P25)-compliant system in North America.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the vast majority of Alberta’s fire agencies and law enforcement, as well as Alberta Health Services, leverage AFRRCS. The network comprises more than 1,500 different channels and more than 200 unique frequencies to facilitate intra- and interagency communication and collaboration for more than 43,000 radios across 150-plus agencies.
The Canadian province selected L3Harris as its AFRRCS network provider in 2011. The company then spent the next five years installing the network core and sites as part of the initial $287 million (USD) contract. Over time, Alberta has added system capabilities to increase coverage for users beyond the initial project scope, according to David Gerhard, L3Harris Program Management director.
“Our previous and on-going support of similar systems, backed with our ties to the defense industry to build extremely rugged radios, positioned us well to deliver high-performance solutions to meet AFRRCS’ needs.”
David Gerhard, L3Harris Program Management director
The Government of Alberta, which manages, operates and maintains the system, stated in its final quarterly report of 2022 that more than 100 million calls were made within the quarter and that “all site” availability was 99.99%.
Resilient Public Safety Communications for Wild Rose Country
Alberta required at least 95% area reliability coverage for mobile and portable radio users in its primary jurisdiction and the same reliability for mobile radios in multiband coverage areas, Gerhard said.
“Establishing a Project 25-compliant system was especially important to prepare Alberta for the complexities of critical communications in the 21st century,” Todd Perdieu, L3Harris Product Management director, said, noting L3Harris’ system is built on P25 specifications for interoperable digital two-way radio products. “The AFRRCS team devoted years researching what P25 technology could offer the province before initiating the program.”
Prior to the Alberta program, L3Harris had established a 275-site P25 network in the adjacent province of Saskatchewan. This provided the company firsthand experience supporting what was, at the time, the largest P25 network on the continent.
P25 solutions have the added benefit of providing access to disparate radios, which allows users to leverage their existing fleet of P25 radios with the latest network solutions, Perdieu added.
Looking to the Future
L3Harris’ partnership with the Mission Critical Alliance (MCA) is an additionally appealing element for Alberta, as it shows the commitment to boundaryless communications interoperability across industry. The MCA is a partner program for best-of-breed technology solutions providers to openly collaborate and advance end-to-end, standards-based capabilities.
Now, as Alberta advances toward P25 Phase 2 standards, the AFRRCS program leads are investigating next-generation 911 capability options with MCA partners and a future deployment of L3Harris’ Two47 repeaters.
New requirements include adding status awareness updates for GPS-equipped users in the network and adding the BeOn® mobile application to the network core.
“BeOn is a very sophisticated critical-communication push-to-talk application, and the province is incorporating it into their network,” Perdieu said. “We are committed to solving the varied and evolving needs of the agencies reliant on mission-critical communications.”