Questions have been raised over the last few years as to how much life the TETRA system still has in it. But it is not a question that troubles Tom Quirke, the recently appointed VP and global lead for TETRA at Motorola Solutions.
‘TETRA is a pretty buoyant market right now,’ he says. ‘What you are seeing is more and more countries and municipalities going over to TETRA. Western Europe has deployed a lot of networks already nationwide. The German market is a very exciting one right now in terms of subscribers and outside of Europe there is plenty of strong business.’
Quirke makes the point that other than Project 25 in the US (where Motorola holds a dominant position), TETRA is a technology that doesn’t have any real rivals.
‘P25 and TETRA are the two public safety technologies for communications that dominate the marketplace and there is still a huge demand for voice,’ he reasons. ‘Voice communications is the predominant way people communicate in mission critical communications.’
Public safety organisations require instantaneous and resilient communication systems that work even when other networks have gone down. ‘These are core requirements,’ says Quirke. ‘So mission critical TETRA networks will still be at the heart of everything for a very, very long time and we can’t see any substitutes coming over the horizon.’
Voice will clearly remain essential, but much of the conversation within public safety these days is about data. Understanding what data can bring is a key issue for public safety organisations. Many are wondering how critical data applications will be and whether it is something they must have.
Quirke believes the take up of data applications will increase as awareness of the benefits grows and dependency rises. The other driver centres on data applications linked directly to the safety of an officer. Customers may deem that kind of data application has to be included on a mission critical network.
As more data applications get taken up, the argument for upgrading TETRA networks to TEDS will become more compelling, according to Quirke. ‘It is a natural transition,’ he says. ‘With TEDS you can do 90% to 95% of all the applications that you will need.’
The major exception is high quality streaming video, which requires a broadband solution. Quirke says: ‘Video and video streaming has yet to be taken up. People need to see the enabler for that, but it will very much be an add-on to the voice system.’
Motorola’s work on video for public safety in the US will undoubtedly give it an advantage here. Indeed, the company enjoys an enviable position in the TETRA marketplace as the leader in both infrastructure and subscriber numbers. ‘That gives us a very strong viewpoint on how the market is evolving and what our customers’ needs are,’ says Quirke.
Naturally, Motorola wants to maintain that position and Quirke believes the key to achieving that is all about providing solutions, rather than just products. This means taking a hard look at the customer’s requirements and coming up with a joined up, holistic solution backed by the right products.
And given the current economic situation, those solutions also need to be more than just the technical ones. The solutions need to provide customers with greater efficiencies and reduced operational costs.
‘A lot of our customers have a crying need for fiscal efficiencies. In the Western world, it is essentially about how do we get more for less? So we are looking at ways to reduce their costs,’ confirms Quirke.
He says that Motorola will maintain its leadership position by listening more closely to customers, so it can better understand the nuances of their jobs.
‘We need to understand their problems. Being close to your customer is the only way you can derive any solutions to support them,’ he argues.
He points out that Motorola has a very conservative customer base by nature. ‘If you are a government department spending taxpayers’ money and you have peoples’ lives on the line, you want to work with someone who has done this again and again and that’s what Motorola can provide. We take learning from everywhere and if something doesn’t work out, we make sure we have a team to support them immediately. That is what our customers are looking for now, as their investments are huge,’ says Quirke.
‘A lot of customers want to deal with one company that will step up and take responsibility and support them for years ahead. They don’t want to have to deal with 15 companies. Motorola is more than willing to do that, and we provide huge value. We monitor many networks day to day. We’ve rolled out over 1,000 systems worldwide and that give us credibility,’ he adds.
Public saftey experience
Motorola’s 80 years of experience in public safety helps to give clients the reassurance they want, according to Quirke. And the fact that it operates in over 90 countries gives it a clear view of the entire market and the different segments within it.
The solutions Motorola provides, he says, need to be tailored not just to different clients, but to the different segments and jobs within those clients’ operations. Products need to be geared towards task-specific functions.
‘And we design those products to last,’ says Quirke. ‘Public safety is at the core of Motorola. Our long term R&D strategy goes out three, five, even 10 years ahead.’
Quirke says Motorola is equally happy offering TETRA or DMR solutions to its clients. ‘We support the growth of DMR – a lot of that will come from the analogue to digital migration, which is a huge market. Some of it TETRA would never be able to touch, because the requirements are quite simple and the cost base is quite low. So we have our professional commercial radio portfolio to address that market. Our strategy is not to leave a gap in the market,’ says Quirke firmly.
‘But what we give our customers is choice,’ he continues. ‘There are probably a whole range of overlapping areas where you could choose DMR or TETRA. For example, many commercial operations, including casinos, airports and those who need commercial radio operations, such as taxi or logistics companies, opt for a TETRA solution.’
The rise of competing technologies and the need to mesh mission critical voice communications with wideband networks means the requirement for interoperability is becoming even more fundamental to public safety.
‘There are several levels of interoperability that have to be addressed,’ says Quirke. The first is between different types or makes of TETRA infrastructure equipment. ‘We have a process that allows us to test many different vendors or subscribers on our networks. Then there is interoperability between different types of technology, such as LTE and TETRA,’ he says.
There are some challenging issues that have to be addressed in integrating broadband networks into TETRA networks. One issue is the speed with which video information has to be sent round to relevant parties. As Quirke says, it’s no good sending video of a situation to an officer if it arrives even a minute after he reaches the scene.
Another issue is how organisations prioritise data. TETRA’s great advantage is its ability to provide talk groups that can be switched or tiered instantly according to changes in priority.
‘Everything has to slave into the TETRA netw