IP is the future of LMR radio. There, I said it. Many of you are thinking “Duh!” and a lot of you are saying “uggg!”. The Motorola MCD 5000 is proof of the fact that IP is only getting a firmer grip on the last holdout of Legacy technology that is Land Mobile Radio.
I recently was able to play around with a MCD 5000 remote system for a recent project. I had to add a Radio Gateway Unit (RGU) with an APX 7500 Consolette. I knew the system was IP based but due to the fact that I have been using Tone Remotes up to this point I still approached it with the attitude that you configure the remote here, the radio there, and woo hoo! Right? Boy was I wrong. There is a reason Motorola refers to the MCD 5000’s as a SYSTEM. No longer are you able to quickly configure a tone remote, set your levels and walk away. No, the MCD 5000 system was designed to solve any radio remote need. With functionality comes complexity.
I like the MCD 5000. Its a top notch device. It better be at Motorola prices. However configuring the System makes me feel like I am working with a Prototype. Constantly changing My laptop IP address to go from Default IP to LAN IP. From Browser to CPS configuration on the APX to the Configuration Tool for the RGU and MCD Remote not to mention Excel. Nothing seems to flow from device to device. Then there is the MCD 5000 CT software.
Maybe Motorola wants their configuration tools to be so horrible that you give in and pay one of their techs to install the equipment. The interface feels very old. The fact that you edit a CSV file makes me wonder if Motorola put any effort at all into making this a mature product. It reminds me of the old radios that had to be programmed with HEX. I get CSV files and their use but why Motorola couldn’t have made a user interface within the Configuration tool that took care of that for you is beyond me.
Then there is the issue with the need to have the CSV file to make changes to an existing system. There is not a single device that holds the configurations. Having a PC with the CSV file IS the master database or so it seems. This presents a problem if you loose the file or perhaps decide to go with another company for your service. I can’t help compare the MCD 5000 with Cisco’s IP telephone systems like Call Manager Express (or take your pick of any other IP phone system). When you get down to it, you are doing the same thing. Sending Audio from one machine to another. I feel like Motorola is far behind here. Have you looked at Cisco IPICS (Now Instant Connect)? You should. Cisco has been able to take an IP deskset and use it to make calls, connect to radios, among other things like check your sports team scores. Not only that, Cisco is doing this on the same hardware that IT folks have been banging on for years. Chances are your IT group already has a Radio Gateway at every location, they just don’t know it. Cisco has been doing RoIP/VoIP for a while now. When you compare Cisco’s solutions to Motorola’s you start to see how new Motorola is to the IP game.
Its not all bad though. I’m sure I have some wrong information in this article as my experience with the product is still young. When you compare the New remotes with what they replaced you start to see a method to the madness. The MC 3000 was a great remote but it was rather rigid in its implementation. With the MCD 5000’s you gain the ability to connect to radios from long distances. You gain the ability to connect to a system of radios, not just one radio. Security features like User permissions and login screens prevent unauthorized use of radio resources, something the MC 3000 had no control of. The build quality on the MCD’s is excellent.
Bottom line is that Motorola has moved on from the old analog days and for those of us that lived to see the hay day of Analog LMR systems, well, we just have to live with it. This isn’t the first time there have been technology changes in the industry and it wont be the last (LTE?). I think the younger technicians that are more IP savvy will have little issue with the MCD 5000. The key now is to take the new technology and go out and build better radio systems!