Motorola, Pentagon sign Baghdad police radio deal

The U.S. Defense Department continues to beef up wireless communications systems in Baghdad and has awarded a US$15.8 million contract to the federal markets division of Motorola Inc. for a radio system in the Iraqi capital for the Baghdad Police Force.

Betsy Flood, a spokeswoman for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), said the Baghdad contract, awarded May 30, covers the purchase, delivery, distribution and installation of 3,000 portable and vehicle-mounted mobile radios, base stations, spare parts, repeaters and towers. Norm Sandler, a spokesman for Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola, said he couldn’t provide many additional details about the system.

“The announcement points toward a trunked system, but as we became aware of the formal announcement only this morning, we are not in a position to address technical details,” Sandler said earlier this week.

Trunked radio systems allow for the automatic sharing of multiple radio channels. A group of channels is assigned to a group of users – such as police or fire department users – who then share the channels. When a user attempts to make a call with his radio, a trunked system searches for an available channel and assigns it to the call. Motorola manufactures a line of trunked radio systems that support the Tetra standard, which features built-in encryption and can scale up to support as many as 30,000 users. Tetra, short for terrestrial trunked radio, is the European Telecommunications Standardisation Institute’s only open standard for digital two-way radio, according to Motorola.

Neither the Pentagon nor DISA could immediately explain exactly what constitutes the “Baghdad Police Force.” Press reports since the fall of Baghdad have said the Iraqi-manned police force has been disarmed and all but disbanded, although some Iraqi police officers do patrol with the U.S. military. The U.S. Army’s 709th Military Police Battalion, based in Germany, is now operating in Baghdad.

The Motorola deal follows a $20 million contract the Defense Department awarded last month to WorldCom Inc. (which is rebranding itself as MCI) to install a cellular telephone system in Baghdad to facilitate communications among U.S. personnel. At that time, Air Force Lt. Col. Ken McClellan, a Pentagon spokesman, said, “The ability to communicate is a crucial tool to advance security interests as well as humanitarian efforts,” in Baghdad.

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