Upgrading its wireless network in 2009 to 3G has facilitated greater access to information, more time spent outside the station, and improved resource tracking for police officers and firefighters in Marietta, Ga. Now the city is working with its vendor to test a 4G version. “That’s probably the biggest development that’s going on right now,” said Ronald Barrett, the city’s management information systems and GIS director. He said about 70 percent of the city is currently covered by Sprint’s 4G service.

The city had been using 19.2 Kbps modems in police and fire department vehicles since the late 1990s, and the equipment had begun to wear out and needed replacement. The vehicles were using modems that cost $2,200 each, and city officials decided they could save money and provide more applications with new, faster modems that cost $795 each.

Marietta chose Utility wireless routers to upgrade its mobile communications capability. Deployment of the new routers started with the city’s police vehicles and then expanded to the fire department and other city departments.

The greater bandwidth provides opportunities for more applications and greater management flexibility. The city’s IT department is developing a crisis management system that will accept updates from officers and firefighters in the field and communicate updates from the command center back to personnel in the field. “They can be out in the field and they don’t have to call something in and say, ‘OK, I picked this guy up here,’” Barrett said. “They mark it on a map so they can keep up with an event with multiple incidents involved.”

Automatic vehicle location is built into the modems, and they’re equipped with charge guards to keep the modems powered for up to four hours after the car is turned off. GPS antennas built into the new modems are harder to tamper with and allow cars to be tracked more accurately without exposing an antenna on the roof.

The upgrades also keep officers from having to go into the station as often. New capabilities allow officers to send a document to a printer in the station from their police cars and ease troubleshooting for the IT staff. “As long as they have a connection, we can remote into their desktop and administer it just like it’s a laptop or a PC on the LAN,” Barrett said. “Probably 70 percent to 80 percent of the problems now we can fix remotely.”