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Life After CDPD: Understanding CDPD Replacement Technologies

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 30 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2003 Pages: 44,46,51
Rick Rotondo
Date Published
October 2003
6 pages
This article discusses the future of police, fire, and emergency communication after Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD) networks are dropped in 2004.
Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reviewed their rules and regulations and announced that it was discontinuing requirements for cellular providers to offer analog services. This effectively discontinues the use of CDPD, which has been the pre-imminent wireless technology used for communication by law enforcement, fire, and emergency response personnel. The article discusses how the CDPD system got started and its rapid adoption by police, fire, and emergency personnel. In place of the CDPD system, service providers are marketing a data communication technology that combines voice and data services. These new technologies, Global Systems for Mobile communications (GSM) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), should increase the speed of communications considerably; the problem is transitioning to such systems on already thin budgets. Furthermore, unlimited access to first responders on the new system may be prohibitively expensive, which would limit the reliability of communications and have potentially deleterious outcomes for public safety. Issues such as interagency interoperability are discussed as the author examines the pros and cons of switching from the analog CDPD system to the newer digital communication systems. The article asserts that there is a fear that the new systems would inhibit communications between emergency vehicles and dispatchers. There are alternatives, however, to these digital communication networks that are supported by service providers. One such alternative is to build emergency agency-owned dedicated data networks through the use of homeland defense and Federal grants. The advantages of this alternative are that it is more financially feasible and it would allow for expansion to meet future needs. Finally, the article concludes by cautioning that public safety agencies must carefully consider how to replace their CDPD systems to ensure the greatest public safety and the most cost efficient network possible.