TETRA World Congress report
As November turned into December, the TETRA community met in Frankfurt to discuss how to take their business forward. With the number of contracts growing and an increasing number of companies entering the TETRA market, the future seemed bright, as long as spectrum issues holding back the next generation of TETRA development can be sorted out.
Phil Godfrey, the TETRA Association’s chairman, told the conference that there had been a 27% growth in TETRA contracts from 622 to 788. The Association counts any infrastructure or terminal contract as a contract.
Godfrey said that TETRA continued to be very successful in transport industry and public safety, but added that the use of TETRA in public utilities was picking up, with about 6-7% of reported contracts.
“We predicted that years ago but it’s happening now,” he said.
He also hailed some notable recent success stories, including the decision of the Hungarian government to go for a country wide TETRA system.. Godfrey said that the Association had also been surprised to see the Romanian border guard authority choose TETRA, as it had been expected a bidder representing the rival Tetrapol technology would win the contract. He also hailed the recent decision of the UK Fire Service to choose to join the Airwave TETRA network for a national services. Godfrey said that following the decision of the Ambulance Authority to go down the same path, the UK would now have a fully interoperable network when needed .
Godfrey added that another indicator of the success of the market is that the technology now has an ancillary market, with specialised antenna and applications developers.
“When you see that sort of thing happening it’s a strong indication that TETRA is now the de facto standard,” he said. Although the challenge was on to spread the technology globally, there are also some heavily crossed fingers within the camp for the award of the German national public safety network.
Nobody within the Association was willing to attempt fate and say they were confident but Godfrey did say that the tender document “seemed to fit perfectly to the TETRA standard.” The tender closure date was Friday 2nd December, and a decision is expected in six weeks. A look at the map below shows how important a national German public safety win for TETRA would be, turning a large chunk of the map dark blue.
Speaking from the point of view of cross-border public safety harmonisation Hans Borgonjen, a founder member of the European Public Safety communications officers said that Germany would be a “fairly important decision for TETRA but also for public safety organisations in the surrounding countries.”
Borgonjen said that the country’s size and geographical position made the destination of the upcoming tender
crucial to his vision of harmonised cross-border public safety communications in Europe.
“The next country to join interoperability testing will be France, with support from the [European] Commission,” Borgonjen said.
Asked by Mobile Europe if he thought the acquisition earlier in 2005 by Tetrapol vendor EADS of Nokia’s TETRA business would hasten technological harmonisation, Borgonjen said that he thought that the acquisition meant it was logical the technical reasons for competition would be less.
For others at the show, the impact of TETRA 2.0, which brings what the community calls High Speed Data, will take TETRA forward, allied to integration with other IP networking technologies.
Jo Moore, marketing director for the EMEA region of Motorola’s Commercial Government & Industrial Solutions Sector, said that TETRA was now in a position to be layered over other networks, giving IP interoperability, with TETRA central to mission critical communications.
Motorola was keen to push its proprietary 802.11 based Mesh technology at the show, and showed a demonstration of Mesh interworking with TETRA terminals and network via an IP gateway. The company sees the increased data rates of Mesh (with typical rates of 250-500kbps per user) as ideal for applications where large amounts of data need to be sent. TETRA 2.0 would be more suitable for mid-bandwidth data requirements.
Mesh also offers accurate and in-building location information availability, and as it is an IP technology can use VPN and IPSec technology for security.
Moore said that the market was now a diverse one, with a mix of country wide “mega” deals and public sector, transportation and public utility contracts. TETRA’s main attraction. She added that the growth of multi-protocol devices, such as the Pocket PC based PDA Motorola launched at the show (pictured left), would push the market further into other market areas.
But there are also problems associated with the introduction of TETRA 2.0. The principal issue is of spectrum allocation, with countries not having an agreed frequency band for the enhanced data service.
Roger Dowling, deputy managing director of number two terminal provider Sepura, said that the issues surrounding TETRA 2.0 had become “worse than anyone anticipated.”
“In most European countries people are stretched for TETRA 1.0 spectrum,” he said. “We work and lobby through the MoU Association’s police ‘13 nations’ group, and Sepura wrote most of the data protocols for TETRA 2.0 for ETSI under contract, so we are aware of the issues.” Even so, Dowling said Sepura would have chips in the next two years for integrating TETRA 2. 0 radios into Tablet PCs or terminals like the MDT.
Dowling said chip development would enable Sepura to put more functionality into the terminals, rather than make the terminals smaller as the buttons would become to small to operate easily. An example of increased functionality is the integration of a GPS module, jointly developed with Qinetiq.
Dowling also saw growth away from the national contracts in the transport sector. He gave Russia as an example where there is no national system s there is spectrum to take TETRA as a replacement for MPT-1327 trunking.
Elsewhere, the show highlighted a growing number of applications developers and vendors addressing the TETRA market with new ideas.
One area that looks ripe for exploitation is in the smaller, portable Nodes. Several manufacturers were showing portable nodes. Rohill’s TetraNode-M measures 60x60x60cm and has two interfaces for PABX or PSTN telephony gateways. Applications include the military where rapid set up and portability are critical.
Damm Cellular Systems launched a remote system control unit for its micro BS421 base station. The TETRA Flex system sits at the bottom of a transmitter mast, linking to the IP network, allowing remote monitoring and management of the base station.
Again the system is targeted at small implementations.