SFL Mobile Radio upgrade Birkenhead town centre radio network to digital comms
Written by: Laurence Doe | Published:

SFL Mobile Radio has upgraded Birkenhead First and Birkenhead town centre retailers’ local ‘Shop Link’ radio network from analogue to digital.

This is the third upgrade to Shop Link since its introduction in 1988 to help stop known shoplifters and share security-led information such as details of a lost person by passing information between retailers, the council control room and local police officers.

There are currently 45 digital radios in use by 30 retailers in the town, located in the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral in Merseyside, England. It has the potential to expand to 100 as and when more users opt to use the system.

These range from security guards of large retailers to sole traders at newsagents. SFL Mobile Radio has issued all Shop Link participants with new digital Motorola DP3400 two-way radios and has installed a new Motorola DR3000 repeater in the Pyramids shopping centre.

"The Motorola equipment can operate in digital and analogue mode, so initially we programmed the new portable equipment into analogue," said Karl Beach, engineer at SFL Mobile Radio, involved in all three upgrades and in the design and smooth roll-out of the latest project.

"We instructed the existing users to maintain the use of the analogue system and then our engineers climbed the mast, gave them the countdown to turn to the digital channel in five minutes and it turned to the digital channel, which everyone else did too and it maintained instant communication from there," added Beach.

Beach adds that the analogue system in place previously was a "mismatch" due to its age and control of the system had been lost as radios were being passed around the shops without being tracked.

Birkenhead First is the Business Improvement District (BID) for Birkenhead Town Centre and an initiative of Wirral Chamber of Commerce. Shop Link is part of Birkenhead First's drive to improve the town centre, making it safe and secure, clean and attractive for shoppers, visitors, workers and residents.

Birkenhead First's Town Hosts, Joe Scarth, Sarah Preston and John Dobson, act as the public face of the BID "welcoming visitors and providing a quick, uniformed response for local businesses in the Shop Link scheme. Since their introduction in April, the Birkenhead First Town Hosts have been a vital part of the scheme.

The Birkenhead First Town Hosts have been provided with Motorola DP4800 two-way radios, featuring large display screens to highlight retailer emergencies and earpieces for secure and discreet communication. Three dedicated radio channels allow Shop Link partners to communicate effectively without disruption to others and the radios also feature special staff protection features to ensure the wellbeing of their users.

"The other issue was that we had to make sure we had radios on standby for those that hadn't signed up to the system with the deadline because there were a number of analogue users that hadn't signed up," adds Beach, who found that a main concern was maintaining communications. "We had quite a flurry of users wanting to go on but couldn't get the paperwork in on time."

The system has run smoothly since its deployment and there has been no increase in cost for any end-users. The digital system has delivered improvements in battery life for the portables, which now last up to 19-hours, ideal for busy shopping periods such as Christmas. Users have noticed that transmissions have become clearer.

Paula Basnett, CEO, Wirral Chamber of Commerce added: "Effective, clear communication and a swift response is essential for the success of any busy, thriving town centre. SFL Mobile Radio are a key partner and we are delighted to work with them on the Birkenhead First initiative in helping deliver the latest technology to keep Birkenhead safe, secure and successful."

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