When considering push-to-talk over cellular (POC) for an organization’s communication needs, policymakers find the proverbial best of both worlds within this technology. The self-explanatory title merges the benefits of advanced walkie-talkie features with the coverage enjoyed by cellular network users. POC’s combination of affordability, expandability, and versatility allow it to meet public safety agencies’ requirements in large metropolitan areas and rural jurisdictions. Additionally, POC can enhance the productivity of businesses such as transportation, delivery, construction, industrial, entertainment, security, or any organization with a need for state-of-the-art communication.
Push-to-Talk Over Cellular: Global Coverage, Clear Transmissions, and Customized Communications
Existing 3G and 4G technology means push-to-talk over cellular can easily provide coverage anywhere a cell phone can operate. In the continental United States, cellular coverage incorporates most populated areas, including many rural locations. This equates to POC’s ability to function without the limitations of traditional two-way radios that are often restricted to small geographical areas, even with the use of repeaters. POC can work across the nation or around the globe.
Users of traditional band radios are familiar with transmissions that are identified with the less than technical term, garbled. Add the inclusion of static and messages often have to be repeated, delayed, or worse, misunderstood. With POC technology, transmissions are clear and information exchanges flow smoothly between users. While interruptions or misinterpretations in communication can be problematic during the normal course of business, they can become a matter of life or death for public safety agencies or others who rely on their radio as a lifeline.
Another advantage of POC is the ability to develop specific talk groups. Most people who have used two-way radios are aware of the time and effort it takes to call a particular person on the main operational channel, have them respond, and request them to go to an alternate talk-around frequency. This is usually done to limit radio traffic on the main channel, but the process itself disrupts communication on the very channel one is trying to preserve. With POC technology, conversations between two individuals are easily established without disrupting a shared, all-inclusive main channel. Further, the ability of customized talk-groups allows for communications between specific team members without broadcasting the exchange to everyone with a radio.
Enhanced Safety Features of Push-to-Talk Over Cellular
When someone needs help, one of the most critical pieces of information is knowing the location of the person requiring assistance. It is no coincidence the first utterance of most 911 dispatch operators answering the call for help is some version of, “where is your emergency?” Once the location is determined, the additional steps of providing assistance will quickly follow.
The GPS feature of POC allows others with authorized access to know each team member’s location with a mobile device. When someone is unable to relay their whereabouts due to an injury or other emergency, dispatchers, supervisors, or other field personnel can quickly determine where help might be needed. While individual circumstances will dictate the type of response, GPS technology and real-time data will assist in ensuring all involved know the vital information of where help is needed. Consider two brief scenarios as examples:
- A delivery driver was expected to drop a package at a residence in a rural part of town and is about 10 minutes late scanning the delivery code indicating the package had arrived. Company policy requires the dispatcher to check on the driver via the POC radio system. All other transmissions with that driver and others throughout the day have been clear, demonstrating the system is functioning correctly. When the driver does not answer, dispatchers use the GPS feature to locate the POC mobile device. Another driver in the area responds and finds the unresponsive employee’s truck had veered into a ditch on a largely untraveled road. He sustained minor injuries but was unable to free himself from the vehicle or access his radio. Had it not been for the rapid response, his condition may have worsened, and his wait for help would have been significantly longer.
- In the second scenario, using a computer aided dispatch system a police officer conducted a traffic stop near an industrial warehouse district. She followed procedure by notifying dispatch of her location, the vehicle description, and the tag number. As is customary, a few minutes later, she was heard on the radio checking the license of the driver. A few moments later, about the same time that dispatch notified the officer that the subject had both a suspended license and an outstanding arrest warrant, in an understandably elevated tone, she called out that the driver had fled on foot. Her last transmission was that she was running in an attempt to catch him.
Nearby units are quickly on their way, but her exact location is not immediately known. The activation of the incorporated emergency button signals to others that she needs help, and her precise location is pinpointed through GPS. A good can dispatcher quickly relayed to responding officers that she is about ¼ mile north of her patrol car, on the west side of a furniture warehouse. The first back-up officer finds her in a struggle with a suspect, and the two are quickly able to secure him without injury. In the middle of a foot pursuit, which turned into a physical altercation with a wanted suspect, the officer was unable to use her voice to summon assistance. However, the emergency button and location feature of the POC mobile device allowed for help to find her without delay.
Affordability of Push-to-Talk Over Cellular
Traditional two-way radio systems often require massive communication infrastructure undertakings. Buying, renting, or leasing access can often be expensive, and those costs are ultimately passed on to the user of the radio. POC uses existing cellular networks and is, therefore, not only more reliable but less expensive to the end-user. The built-in back-up feature of modern cellular technology equates to increased productivity for POC users. Finally, expansive coverage of cellular service easily allows for POC to provide national and international communications that are secure, clear, and economical.