10 years of TETRA

Is TETRA losing ground to new technologies and is its core market in the public sector set to shrivel as governments curb their spending? Phil Kidner, chief executive of the TETRA Association, says TETRA has many years of development

10 years of TETRA

TETRA has a long and successful history in the public sector but is increasingly being adopted by commercial organisations from different sectors. How do you see that commercial push developing?

TETRA was always developed with the commercial sector in mind. It’s ideally suited for mission critical users that work in groups. If you count the number of networks in operation rather than the size of the contracts in terms of user numbers, transport is now the biggest sector for TETRA. Having said that, TETRA is also ideal for public services, although it was originally started for commercial uses.

What makes TETRA so attractive to commercial organisations?
It is a very feature rich technology that has got many functions and it’s also the most spectrum efficient technology available. It was the first voice and data system and it has got an interoperability certification process – designed by us – which means you can buy one device and use it on another network. That might not seem a big deal in comparison to cellular mobile but it is in the PMR market.

What factors could limit the continued uptake of TETRA?
Voice and data are two important factors to consider. TETRA voice is clearly the best-of-breed and is better than any other PMR. That remains a primary requirement for most of our users. However, when it comes to data, although TETRA does offer wide area data, we are now in a world where people want more and more data, and TETRA currently cannot deliver broadband data. We are currently working with ETSI to explore a new broadband TETRA standard. That may take the form of another evolution of TETRA and it has been through many evolutions and developments in the 10 years it has been available Or it may involve something like creating an interface to a technology such as LTE.

I see TETRA staying popular because of the best-of-breed voice it provides but I see it increasingly working with other technologies like LTE. The standard is up to ETSI but my personal view is that if something like LTE is already there we should make use of it.

What technologies may challenge TETRA?
I think TETRA fits into a range of technologies that are available. At one end there’s TETRA and [rival] P25, and users have a choice between those and other proprietary technologies – I think using a non-standardised solutions is a dangerous decision to make but the option is there. At the low end of the market, DMR and DPMR are starting to emerge. TETRA is scalable so at one end it competes with DMR and DPMR and at the other it competes with P25. Our success is built on more than 20 TETRA manufacturers competing with each other, driving down prices and growing the market. We’re happy to compete and the fact that TETRA is in 117 countries worldwide shows how widespread uptake has been and how attractive the TETRA proposition is.

Given much of the TETRA market is in the public sector, what effect do you think cuts in spending by governments will have on the TETRA market?
There must be an impact on all technologies but with TETRA we are talking about part of the critical infrastructure of all these countries. I think those that don’t have TETRA recognise a need for it. You look at some of the technology that public safety users are utilising and you think that it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Increasingly, governments are recognising that in this world of cross-border crime and terrorism, their agencies need the right tools.

TETRA has the advantage because typical public safety services can be implemented across shared networks covering multiple emergency services. For example, the UK now has more than 250,000 users across the public safety sector. You may need to spend more to get the system established but you only need one system for the Police, Fire and Ambulance services, for example.

TETRA is also becoming more cost effective. If you compare prices for TETRA terminals today with those of a few years ago, they are halved.

How is the TETRA Association working to improve the profile of TETRA and increase understanding of its capabilities?
We’re a marketing organisation so we market TETRA around the world. I’ve just got back from an event in Ankara, Turkey and will shortly be heading out to the TETRA World Congress in Singapore. We also manage the interoperability process. We have a contract with a branch of the Italian Government, which performs interoperability testing on our behalf. We also liaise with ETSI to keep the standard up to date and ensure that all the innovations from the interoperability process are fed back into the standards.

Our role is also to look after the interests of existing users. In the UK, for example, they have had the system in place for 10 years and need a future path and their concerns addressed. We are also able provide training and offer a huge range of courses.

n What do you see as the future for TETRA?
People say to me ‘Is TETRA getting old fashioned now?’ but the answer to that is ‘No’ because we continually keep it up to date. TETRA 2 systems are rolling out now. The World Cup and the 2012 Olympics will run on TETRA as did the two previous Olympics. TETRA is a vibrant, growing, developing and evolving technology for today, not just an old technology from Europe that has been around for 10 years. People say that P25 is new but TETRA has been developed differently and I’d argue that it is more advanced than P25.

Perhaps the best example I can give is that the German Government is now in the process of rolling out the largest TETRA system in the world. That system will have 500,000 users and will be used not just for today but for the next 15 years. TETRA has a great future.

Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

Leave a Comment