Excera looks like being the Chinese PMR vendor most likely to follow Hytera and break out internationally judging by its strong portfolio of DMR products on display at PMRExpo 2015 in Cologne, Germany 924-26 November 2015).
Excera was set up in 2012 and is part of Shenzhen-based Vigor Digital Communication Technologies, a company set up in 1993 and a pioneer of MPT1327 analogue trunking and PDT (Police Digital Trunking) systems in China. Excera is concentrating on pushing the brand out into the international market with DMR Tier 2 and 3 products at the core of its offering.
It is offering two main DMR portable radios: the EP8000 and the EP8100, which comes with full keypad and a 2-inch display screen with HD transflective TFT LCD display to ensure good visibility even in strong sunlight.
Both radios feature 2W loudspeakers and a high capacity battery design as they are equipped with 2400mAh or 3400mAhLi-ion batteries. They also feature an optional built-in noise reduction function, which enable noises suppression up to 25dB.
Both radios support DMR Tier 2 and 3 modes and are compliant with the IP67 and MIL-STD-810 standards for dust, water ingress and shock ratings. Excera claims the radios are among the smallest and lightest products compared with other radios in the same class.
Other optional features include built-in Bluetooth module, along with GPS, Beidou and GLONASS location services. Most unusually Excera also offers the option of full-duplex calling, thus obviating the need for push-to-talk – this is only available in trunking mode. Excera is claiming a world exclusive on this in PMR.
The company also offers the DMR Tier 2 only EP3120 and EP3620 (with key pad and small display screen) hand portables for those looking for something less sophisticated that the EP8000 range.
The EM8100 DMR mobile radio has a similar features and options to the EP8000 series and comes with a 2.8-inch HD TFF LCD display and the option for a remote mount control head that can be mounted separately from the radio chassis if space is limited in vehicles.
At the core of the DMR system is the Excera ER9000 base station/repeater. The ER9000 can support nine different modes on one platform, according to executive director Edmund Tay, who leads the company’s technical development. These include: analogue, DMR Tier 2 and PDT conventional; DMR Tier 3, PDT and MPT1327 trunking modes; DMR simulcast supporting both digital and analogue modes; and it can act as a wireless link base station.
Another first for Excera, according to Tay, is its single frequency repeater innovation, whereby both time slots are in a single frequency. ‘We split them out, so this allows you to use both time slots separately and to be able to transmit at any time. This enables us to offer all sorts of applications.’
Speaking to Wireless at the show, Tay (pictured below) said: ‘We think our technology is ahead of many in the market, including Hytera, and we are going after the international market now. We believe we are the biggest PMR designer in China. We have deployed many PDT systems in China, for example.
‘We are more open to white labelling, whereby people use our designs and house them in their own casings. We are happy to co-operate with ODMs, to white label products, and go to market under the Excera name to capture a wider share of the market. We are looking to establish our own sales channel and get resellers and distributors signed up. We believe we can match Motorola Solutions and Hytera,’ said Tay.
He added: ‘We may be new, but we are very innovative and we have very good engineers. I think we will grow very fast and we have a lot more innovative solutions coming along next year, including our 2 + 4 LTE trunked system.’
If 2 + 4 sounds familiar that’s because it is Chinese mobile infrastructure giant ZTE’s solution for combining PMR and 4G LTE into one system. Tay was a consultant to ZTE on the development of the solution.
Commenting on the market, Guoqi Duo, general manager of both Excera and Vigor – and the man who introduced MPT1327 into China - said: ‘I’ve been in this industry for 27 years and I think the mobile market is getting more and more competitive. You can categorise it into three areas of participation: platform companies, such as Motorola Solutions, Sepura, Hytera and so on; systems integrators providing the software and integration skills; and the low end manufacturers, who have little design capability – they buy the design and copy the products.
‘We think Excera can grow very fast thanks to our platform and complete end-to-end solutions. We want to be the platform company and there are not so many who can offer a complete solution, so that is our main selling point. Right now we are a new player and we are launching worldwide. We will be making further investments to enhance our platform over the next few years,’ said Duo.
Asked about the perceived desire among some PMR users to migrate to 4G LTE broadband platforms, Tay feels PMR has a good five to 10 years of life in it yet, and said: ‘Yes, we can see there is a demand for high speed data services such as mobile video, from public safety and other critical communication users. But there are problems with finding spectrum for private LTE networks in many parts of the world and to deal with capacity issues you would need at least 20MHz of spectrum.’
He continued: ‘The coverage area of LTE is also very small compared with the frequencies used by PMR, so that means your infrastructure costs will be higher. That’s why we see the 2 + 4 combination of PMR and 4G as a better solution. We might see private 4G networks in the cities, but once you get out into the countryside you may have to share those spectrum resources. There is a growing interest in PTT voice over LTE and multi-mode or hybrid solutions. We might even see some multi-mode radios in 2016,’ suggested Tay.