Eglin AFB Update: New Military Radio System Could Cost $1 Billion in GDO Bills

© 2004 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Fall 2004
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Page 34

Eglin AFB Update
New Military Radio System Could Cost $1 Billion in GDO Bills

On August 17-18, several DASMA members converged on Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to deal with potential major problems with gate and garage door openers (GDOs).

How major? 40 million GDOs.

What kind of problems? $1 billion in GDO service bills.

Who will pay for it? Good question.

As reported in the summer issue of Door & Access Systems, a new $5.5 million Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system has been installed at Eglin for military police, fire, and medical users. The system, scheduled to go online at Eglin in October, will soon spread to other military bases across the country and even interface with civilian authority radios for homeland security reasons.

Unfortunately, the government selected 380-399.9 Mhz as the frequency range for their new communications system. Chamberlain and Genie openers generally use 390 Mhz. So, when Eglin initially tested the system, dozens of garage door openers throughout the neighboring area wouldn’t work.

A Meeting of Minds

Joe Giangrosso, Gulf Area Frequency Coordinator at Eglin, invited DASMA opener manufacturers to the August meeting to talk to base experts and to see how the radio system works. Representatives from Byan Systems, Chamberlain, GTO, Linear, Marantec America, Select Engineered Systems, Genie, Wayne-Dalton, and Allstar attended, along with Joe Hetzel, DASMA technical director.

The meeting was no small affair. Television and other news media covered the event, and representatives from the Pentagon, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), and the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) attended via a telephone conference.

Colin Willmott, Chamberlain’s director of engineering/international liaison, spoke at the meeting on behalf of opener manufacturers. Willmott knows that the government holds the rights to those frequencies, and that the situation is politically delicate for our industry.

Advance Notice

“We know they own the (380-400 Mhz) band,” says Willmott. “It’s okay to require us to move, but I said they need to give us time to move our frequencies and replace equipment. They said they obviously made a mistake, but it was too late to do much about it.”

Our industry would not have a problem with manufacturing new transmitters and receivers to operate outside of the 380-400 Mhz spectrum. However, the problem centers on existing openers in the field. All affected units would need new receiver/transmitters that operate outside the 380-400 Mhz band.

A Billion-Dollar Service Bill

Willmott cited a few startling statistics at the meeting. “I told them that in the U.S., there are perhaps 40 million units that are using the 390 MHz frequency,” he says. “Nobody knows who’s going to pay to fix all these openers. I told them this could easily cost consumers a billion dollars.”

The Math: If only 20 percent of 40 million units report problems, then 8 million units would be serviced. If each service costs $100, then the total cost is $800 million, just short of a billion dollars.

Thanks to Willmott’s considerable international experience, he added another factoid at the meeting. “I also said the U.S. was the only civilized country in the world that doesn’t have an allocated frequency for low-power devices,” he recalls. “They seemed sensitive to that statement.”

The Next Episode

According to a press release from Eglin, FCC officials will contact DASMA again to work on a joint resolution. The next meeting was expected to take place in Washington, D.C., in September.

Stay tuned.