CCW 2014: TETRA for now, LTE comes later

Integrated solutions and the evolution towards mission critical 4G LTE networks were key themes at this year’s CCW, but there was also plenty to indicate that TETRA will be around for some time yet. James Atkinson reports from Singapore

CCW 2014: TETRA for now, LTE comes later

This year’s Critical Communications World conference and exhibition held at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore attracted a higher number of attendees than any previous TCCA event held in Asia, according to Phil Kidner, CEO of the TETRA + Critical Communications Association (TCCA).

Commenting on the general message emerging from the conference and exhibition he said: ‘The message is that the more I hear about LTE, the more convinced I am that TETRA will be around for a long time yet. Yes, LTE will come eventually for critical communications, but there are many caveats at the moment, especially over standardisation.’

He pointed to the examples of Germany and Norway, which are investing in completely new TETRA networks. Belgium, Holland and Finland are all looking to keep their TETRA networks going for the foreseeable future, while examining how they might harness broadband LTE technology for their emergency services as a complementary service.

Kidner added: ‘The TCCA will continue to support ETSI and 3GPP in their work to ensure LTE is a suitable technology for mission critical communications. I’m encouraged by industry partnerships such as the ones between Ericsson and Motorola Solutions, and Airbus and Alcatel-Lucent. A joint approach to evolving LTE for mission critical purposes is good, as TETRA and LTE are very different technologies, so they need to work together.’

At the conference, the future of TETRA was discussed by a panel of representatives from Norway’s DNK, Hong Kong Police, TTG, TCCA and Germany’s BDBOS, chaired by Thomas Lynch of research analyst firm IHS. As operators need to see a significant return on investment from current TETRA deployments, it is safe to say that TETRA will not suddenly be replaced by LTE overnight, the panel asserted.

The key factor here is in what users understand as ‘mission-critical’ communications. Public safety users demand resilient and reliable voice communication above all else. And it is hard to dispute TETRA’s position as the superior technology for this was the conclusion.

However, in a survey conducted by Motorola, 89% of public safety users view data as critical. It was felt that the important thing now is to understand how best to integrate LTE into a TETRA network. LTE should not be seen as a replacement for TETRA. Right now, it is a complimentary technology to TETRA, and one that will continue to be developed.

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