Now, for the details of our experiences with two ALE systems in use at CA State OES. One is a very efficient system in constant standby mode for contacts between California OES and FEMA. The other had a long and difficult birthing process that resulted in differences of opinion. That is the system we are re-evaluating.
In essence ALE (automatic link establishment) is a process where two or more radios maintain periodic signaling between each so that the knowledge of the optimum communications frequency is available to each radio should there be a need to communicate between them. Construction of the radio SYSTEM as well as the RADIO directly affects the results. The two systems I will here describe are quite different.
ALE can easily be described but is incredibly complex to implement in practice. It took us several years to develop and work out the details of two ALE radio systems at State OES; one with Motorola MICOM XF ALE radios, the other is a Harris ALE dual-rack mounted radio with highly integrated systems such as diversity receivers, a fault-finding controller, and other items.
There is much more to using an ALE radio than just buying it and putting it into service. What kind of system will it serve? Does it need to communicate with another system already in place? Will it be compatible with that of other manufacturers? Is it numeric or alphanumeric addressing? How many addresses (one for each radio) are needed? How many radios will you need, including backups? What distances are covered and how scattered are the locations? Will there be multiple ALE call groups and how many radios will be in each group? How many frequencies will be involved? Will the frequencies have other licensees operating ALE as well as you? How will the ALE "sounding" be handled? What station will be the "master"? (Sounding is the process of sending out signals to be answered by other radios and then recording the results into an RF path linkage table that tells the radio the best frequency to use should it be asked to establish two-way contact during the time frame before the next sounding.)