June 30, 2012:
Without much fanfare police and military tactical communications are being revolutionized and increasingly look and feel more like the Internet as used on a cell phone. These radios still look and, in many cases, act like the traditional police/military radio. But because of new radio signal standards and powerful (and easily reprogrammed) software controls, the new radios can also send Internet like data, as well as the usual voice communications. This enables the new radios to quickly exchange photos or even videos. Most importantly, most of these radios can also serve as a connection to an Internet-like radio network. The American military began developing Internet type radio signal standards in the 1990s, and now new models of radios all have these capabilities.
Most of these radios are 20 watt tactical radios (either man-portable or mounted in trucks). There are also similar 150 watt radios, for long range communications. The 20 watt radios have a range of about 20 kilometers. This varies with antenna used and how hilly the terrain is. The 150 watt radios are often equipped with a special antenna that gives them a range of 300 kilometers or more. These tactical radios cost about $40,000 each and also include features like encryption, frequency hopping, and the like.
All of this is part of a migration of military communications to standards and features established on the Internet and are familiar to most people. This is particularly useful for quickly teaching recruits how to use military communications.