Telecommunications infrastructure is important in enabling Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) to function, as it ties together and moves data between the major elements of an ITS, including roadside equipment, vehicles, the vehicle operator and central operations facilities (such as transportation management centers). Through integrating the individual elements of an ITS, telecommunications provides a critical technical function to the system, and can act as a mechanism for enhancing overall transportation efficiency. Telecommunications also comprises a significant share of the cost of an ITS, both in terms of implementation and operations and maintenance.
Arriving at the telecommunications solution that best suits agencies' needs is a high priority, but it can be a challenge. This is largely due to the rapid pace of change in telecommunications and the skills required to understand and assess different telecommunications alternatives. This report is designed to provide assistance on what processes work best and what factors should be considered when making telecommunications decisions. A number of the best techniques for exploring telecommunications alternatives are presented to help agencies determine the optimal alternative in support of their ITS program.
For this study, the telecommunications experiences of state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and agencies from across the country were examined. In particular, examples of successful practices in ITS telecommunications were drawn from California, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
In the deregulated telecommunications environment, agencies have a much wider and more varied choice for telecommunications services. There are many firms, each offering different services, prices and business arrangements. As a result, agencies will need to carefully consider the basis for its decision to contract with a Competitive Access Provider (CAP). This decision process requires that agencies fully understand their system requirements, as these will inform the selection of the most appropriate choice. In addition, there are a number of other implications of choosing a CAP that need to be considered. These include:
- Plan for access fees charged by the local phone company. The local phone company will charge access fees to CAPs, so agencies will need to consider the effect of these fees on the overall cost of the telecommunications network.
- Consider how the CAP will interconnect with the local phone company's network. It is highly likely that the CAP will need to interconnect with the local phone company’s network; however, cross provider interconnects represent situations where cost is incurred and where responsibility becomes disputed if there are service problems. Thus, the form of the interconnect and how responsibility is delegated for problems along the interconnect will need to be addressed.
- Assess the specific capabilities of the CAPs and their quality of service. There may be significant differences in the capabilities of CAPs, so agencies should pay careful attention to the services that the CAPs offer. For example, some CAPs may be able to offer dark fiber or unloaded twisted pairs, while others may be limited to specific types of services. As part of this assessment, agencies should consider the quality of service provided by different CAPs (this may include measures of bit error rate, reliability, or other relevant factors).
- Assess the business stability of the CAPs under consideration. In the current deregulated environment, firms with relatively smaller assets are still able to enter the market. The long-term stability of these firms, however, may be questionable, and the agency may find itself in a long-term contract with a firm that is no longer in business in the region.
- Investigate the local manpower resources of the CAP. Agencies will want to determine that the CAP has the necessary local manpower to diagnose and respond to problems or outages.
- Consider the ability to modify the contract. Agencies will want to insure that they are able to modify their contract with a CAP to allow for growth. In order for networks to evolve and grow, agencies must be able to explore their options for interconnection and integration with other systems.
This lesson highlights a range of factors that are important in selecting a service provider. Through careful consideration of these issues, agencies can increase the likelihood that they will obtain high quality, cost effective services that meet their telecommunications needs.
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