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Radio Systems and Accessories: Vendor Landscape

Radio systems are always one of the most popular technologies in the justice and public safety marketplace, particularly right now as the FCC’s narrowbanding deadline draws near. The below map provides a visual representation of where radio systems, accessories and related technology purchases have been made in the last 12 months, according to the Deltek database.

 

In states such as Texas, New York and California, the last 12 month has resulted in 10 or more purchases of radio technology, likely due to the fact that many localities are struggling to narrowband and avoid costly fines by the FCC. In the last three years, an even greater number of states with better-prepared localities also made significant radio purchases.

 

Five states had at least 15 radio purchases in the last three years. While a large portion of these were likely driven by the need to narrowband, the increase in popularity of P25 compliant systems and systems reaching the end of their useful life also played a role in these purchases.

Along with being one of the most frequently procured JPS technologies, radio systems are also some of the most expensive systems. Only 911 systems rival radio systems in cost, and 911 systems are often funded in part through 911 taxes levied on phone bills. Radio systems, on the other hand, are painstakingly funded through city and county budgets, and, if lucky, through grants.

The installation of radio systems is often limited to a select group of multistate (and in some cases, multinational), well-known vendors; however, there is significant room for smaller companies to get their piece of the pie when it comes to system accessories. Distributors and resellers often work on a more local level to provide radios, repeaters and even towers to cities and counties within a short distance of their shop. The below map identifies the states with the greatest number of vendors who list radio technologies as their primary business offering.


 

Analyst’s Take

As indicated in the above maps, the purchase of radio-based technology aligns closely with the locations of vendors selling these technologies. A great deal of this is due to the significant opportunity available to distributors and resellers in these areas. Of course, vendors focusing on radios and accessories have opportunities on a steadier basis than vendors who focus only on areas requiring the development of an entirely new system. Despite the increase in cell-phone towers and reception, radios remain the number one way in which public safety officials communicate, and this will not be changing anytime soon. Even smaller vendors should consider expanding their businesses, either in the locations served or the types of products and services offered.

While the narrowbanding deadline means that a large number of systems were recently upgraded, a significant number were not, and agencies have sought waivers or are willing to take the chance that the FCC will not enforce the deadline. In many cases, even systems that were narrowbanded were done so through the conversion of radios themselves, and full system overhauls and upgrades may still be needed.

Vendors interested in expanding location-wise should consider states where little to no radio technology purchases were made in the last few years. Given the nature of the market and widespread strapped budgets, it is unlikely that these states were all ahead of the curve and narrowbanded their systems upon first learning of the mandate. More likely, they are waiting until funding can be secured and are making due with antiquated systems and duct-tape.

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