The PMR world is busily debating how the voice capabilities of TETRA networks can be combined with the media-rich data services now available on commercial smartphones. Ideally, voice and broadband data services would be available on a single device.
Thales chose the TETRA World Congress to unveil just such a device. The company’s Every Talk ruggedised PDA combines voice with multimedia services.
Sebastian Sabatier, strategy and marketing manager for PMR activities at Thales, says at the launch: ‘If you push one button you can send a real-time video to command and control, share information or locate a colleague. You can also get face recognition, fingerprint, eye recognition, e-fine and e-payments services, which you cannot do on narrowband devices. And we have included all the TETRA voice features in the voice application layer.’
The device uses Thales’ TeMax solution, a communication system acting as an ‘application booster’ over a standard TETRA network. TeMax provides broadband connectivity to enable the integration of multimedia applications and the exchange of large volumes of data. Thales is using a WiMAX solution to provide broadband capability.
Thales is also using commercial off-the-shelf technology to allow the end user to have access to large economies of scale technology and so get the benefit of rapid technology evolution. It is working with Samsung to provide access to 4G base station technology and Cisco for access to part of the core network.
Sabatier explains: ‘We can adapt this off-the-shelf technology to meet mission critical priorities, including maintaining security, confidentiality and integrity. We can provide all the different level of TETRA features such as pre-emptive calling and 15 different levels of priority call, emergency call and call setup. It takes exactly the same time to set up a group call – 250 milliseconds.
‘It can be set up as a private network. We are a systems integrator, so we can set it up as a complement to an existing legacy network, so you have a broadband solution on top of a P25 or TETRA network.’
Thales believes that in future all users will want data applications, but with voice as well. ‘We cannot imagine that a policeman will want to have a voice radio that does not give him access to video. In 10 years there will be one platform, but they will not want to carry two devices,’ says Sabatier.
The Every Talk PDA is designed to be independent of any frequency and manages four radio wave forms: WiMAX, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and integrated GPS, and by the beginning of next year Thales will integrate the LTE wave form in a dual-mode chipset. The antenna is completely integrated into the PDA so it works with TETRA narrowband and broadband.
The one major stumbling block as far as public safety professionals are concerned is the mediocre battery life. The Every Talk PDA does not work like two-way radios with 5% talk, 5% receive and 90% standby. It needs to communicate with the network the whole time for broadband.
At present, Thales claims that the Every Talk can work for a full four hours of constant communication, but up to 12 hours of normal daily usage. The company admits it cannot compare with narrowband equipment at the moment. But Thales has developed a device that allows a spare battery to be charged up without being in the PDA.