TETRAPOL prepares for the future

TETRAPOL, the digital, cellular trunked radio system developed by EADS (Cassidian) in the 1980s, is preparing itself for the future, attendees at the PMR Summit in Barcelona heard

TETRAPOL prepares for the future

The TETRAPOL standard is currently deployed in 91 networks across 35 countries and has more than 1.85 million users. The TETRAPOL Forum claims some 70% of the digital PMR market in Europe with 65 networks in use. Approximately 80% of the user base is in public safety and security, 15% in defence and 5% in transport and industry.

Although the TETRA standard was established after TETRAPOL, the former has since been adopted by the European Telecommunications Standardisation Institute (ETSI) as the European standard.

However, TETRAPOL delivered operational systems at an earlier date, rolling out the world’s first large-scale digital PMR network in 1988 in the shape of the RUBIS system for the French National Gendarmarie. The first TETRA systems were not installed until 1997.

TETRAPOL provides a similar set of advanced voice and data features to TETRA for public safety users, along with the same robust, secure and resilient functionality. There are multiple interoperability solutions between TETRAPOL and TETRA and even analogue. At present, this interoperability solution, like other type of interoperability solutions, only operates in network (or relay) mode. This suits the need of cross-border/cross-network cooperation.

With regards to the direct mode, there is no interoperability, as this would require a dual-mode TETRAPOL-TETRA terminal and there is no market for such terminal. However, Cassidian's view is that next generation PMR (broadband-based) will converge TETRAPOL and TETRA communities to a single air interface, enabling true seamless interoperability.

At the PMR Summit in Barcelona, Cassidian’s strategic marketing manager, Stephane Eloy, brought delegates up to date on the latest TETRAPOL developments.

Operational trends

Eloy first identified the new operational trends that are shaping TETRAPOL’s future development. These included: the need for end-to-end high-speed data solutions; new terminals, applications and tactical solutions; increased interoperability with other agencies, especially cross-border agencies; and the requirement for new algorithms to meet the security race.

He pointed out that the current economic climate also means equipment suppliers have an obligation to help end users get more out of their existing systems and find ways to reduce operational costs.

Eloy also argued that the entire public safety community needs to prepare for the future, not just in terms of a new generation of base stations and terminals, but by working together to deliver a future European 4G PMR standard.

TETRAPOL has provided a data enhancement solution (equivalent to TETRA Enhanced Data Services – TEDS), but with the growing need for data transfer in PMR, a mission critical broadband PMR solution needs to be found, while still keeping costs under control, said Eloy.

Converged solution

Eloy argued that this means more standardisation is required, along with the whole PMR community lobbying for additional harmonised spectrum to run broadband services in Europe. He said that broadband will become a true converged solution for the TETRA and TETRAPOL community in the future.

To provide a competitive, but affordable ecosystem, the public safety community needs to: harmonise spectrum; establish an ‘affordable’ set of patent license fees; create a terminal chipset ecosystem; explore the idea of creating a converged next generation PMR European Standard with TETRA; and adapt existing PMR 400MHz narrowband spectrum with high power devices for broadband.

Cassidian argues that this calls for an LTE-based platform, as this will provide a considerable increase in data throughput, as well as leveraging a competitive ecosystem. The company also argues that in the interim, the existing 400MHz public safety spectrum should be leveraged for broadband by using existing radio sites. Cassidian has partnered with Alcatel-Lucent to create an LTE at 400MHz end-to-end solution.

Eloy introduced delegates to Cassidian’s new base station, which can handle both narrow and broadband communications. Its main advantages are: integrated narrowband TETRAPOL and high-speed data solution; increased spectrum efficiency; flexible frequency programming; major OpEx optimisation (70% less space is required in base station cabinets); full compatibility with current networks to provide a smooth migration; and it is ready for next generation PMR, including mission critical voice over LTE.

Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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