A digital mobile two-way radio solution designed, installed and managed by Pennine has earned high praise for delivering conveniently lightweight handsets and fantastic reception to Salford’s AJ Bell Stadium.
Reliable and clear communications are absolutely vital when you’re responsible for public safety. No-one knows this better than Ruth Steenson, manager of the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford.
Opened in 2012 the 11,500 capacity stadium is a busy venue. It not only plays host to both rugby league’s Salford Red Devils and Sales Sharks Rugby Union, but has switfly established itself as a popular confernece, exhibition and wedding venue.
“It’s imperative to have reliable communications when managing large crowds because there could be lives at risk,” explains Ruth. It was for this reason that when looking to replace the stadium’s existing analogue two-way radio system she turned to incumbent supplier, Pennine, for advice.
Having taken into account the stadium’s needs and wishes the Bury-headquartered company recommended a managed service solution, comprising 70 PD705 handsets, earpieces and fixed mobile, backed up with inclusive service and repair support.
Having considered other suppliers’ solutions, Ruth is clear why she opted to stick with Pennine. “I went with Pennine because I trusted them. Yes, it was about price, but I had to be sure I could trust we would get good service and I had confidence from experience that Pennine would deliver that.”
“Pennine were also the first of the three companies we approached who offered the Hytera solution. The others followed.” She liked too how Pennine supplied demonstration models so the handsets could be “road tested” on site.
So why Hytera? Well ease and comfort of use were a high priority, with stadium staff using the system throughout often lengthy shifts. Ruth was therefore keen to introduce handsets that were less weighty and easy on the ear.
“One of the things that was important to us apart from having a multi-channel system was that the earpiece was comfortable to wear for up to eight hours at a time,” says Ruth, adding with a smile, “They are. I’ve gone home with one still in my ear and only realised when I was sat in the car and the handset was digging in my back!”
At just 335g the PD705s also offered a significant weight advantage of rival models. But whilst the handsets are pleasingly lightweight, the Hytera solution itself is not, offering a robust and reliable service.
Equipped with both narrowband codec, digital error correction and signal-smoothing automatic gain control technologies, plus an in-built 1w speaker, the handsets offer crisp communication within a challenging setting. Signals must not only overcome the stadium’s robust concrete construction but the famously loud roar of passionate rugby crowds.
“Transmission quality is great across the board. The system has to cover the whole stadium, including the car parks, and there’s a lot of concrete to get through” confirms Ruth.
Handsets are distributed across stadium company staff, caterers, car park attendants and external security specialists, G4S, with each allocated a dedicated channel from up to 16 available on the system. On matchdays the teams are also armed with radios to ensure all necessary individuals are included within the communications loop.
All can also make use of the system’s private, group, universal and emergency call functions, making both everyday and incident management communications highly effective.
Contentment is rife reports Ruth, saying: “I’ve double checked and all the staff are happy with the Hytera handsets,” adding, “I’m an analogue girl and even I could work them out! They’re very easy to use.”
Switchover from the old analogue to new digital system was equally easy. “It was all very well organised with Pennine, it was seamless.”
So now the system is up and running, delivering clear and reliable communications, what are the benefits offered over and above the public safety imperative? “We can give a much more immediate response to customers’ questions so we can give better customer service,” says Ruth whilst noting that staff appreciate the handsets’ “chunky” buttons and the audio prompts which mean handsets needn’t be removed from belts or lapels in order for the user to determine which channel they’re on.
All told, she’s a happy stadium manager thanks to a system that delivers everything she asked for, backed by a managed service offering regular maintenance and a prompt repair and replacement facility.
In the final analysis, Ruth is clear about her reasoning behind selecting Pennine: “It was all about the customer service and the relationship with Pennine,” she concludes.