Harris RF Communications showcased the ability of its multiband, P25-compliant Unity portable radio to operate in high-noise environments during demonstrations conducted at the company’s booth during the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference in Las Vegas last month.

During the demonstration, Harris simulated various noise levels in a sound chamber and had a company representative speak into an analog radio, a P25 radio with the enhanced vocoder and a Unity radio with the enhanced vocoder and noise-cancellation technology. Noise simulations included street-level noise, pump-engine noice, personal alerting safety system (PASS)-alarm noise and chainsaw noise, which reached 101 dB.

Last year, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) released a report citing lab tests indicating that analog radios outperformed P25 digital radios in certain noise environments, including in the presence of PASS alarms.

However, in each simulation at the Harris booth, the Unity radio outperformed the other radios in terms of delivering intelligible audio.

“Here’s the thing to remember: we’re not done,” said Dirk Young of Harris. “There has been tremendous improvement, but no one in the industry is done.”

In particular, Young noted that DVSI — the company that developed the P25 enhanced vocoder — is expected to release another upgrade to its vocoder by the end of the year.

When asked whether he believes the tests conducted for the IAFC report should be repeated with the Unity and other new portable radios on the market, Young said he would like to wait for some time, so additional improvements can be made to the radios. However, Young said he is confident the industry is moving in the right direction in its effort to address the concerns of the firefighting community.

“We’re well underway on the journey, but by no means are we at the destination,” Young said.