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From success to success

Date: 08th October 2012
Topic: Monthly Features
Issue: Issue 10
Tags: TCCA

IMG_9562.jpgTETRA and its markets are more buoyant now that at any other time in the history of the communications standard. Figures from IMS Research underline the strength of the technology. Last year, shipments of TETRA terminals increased by more than 9 per cent over 2010. This makes 2011 the TETRA market’s most successful year to date.

As well as the manufacturing strength of 2011, the past 12 months have seen some significant milestones, a steady stream of new contracts announced and innovative products launched. Many of the products were unveiled at the TETRA World Congress in Dubai, which saw record attendance in terms of both visitors and exhibitors.

Opening up North America

The big news is that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently issued a permanent change  to its Part 90 rules, permitting the unrestricted use of TETRA technology for critical communications in the 450–470 MHz and 809–824/854–869 MHz bands. This change consolidates a temporary waiver issued by the FCC last year, opening up the US market to TETRA voice and data communications for users requiring critical communications.

The FCC’s ruling comes after many years’ work by the TETRA + Critical Communications Association (TCCA) and other TETRA advocates to bring the benefits of TETRA to users in North America.

Arguably the most notable contract announcement was made in October 2011 by Canada’s SMi and the US-based PowerTrunk, which were chosen by the Canadian power company BC Hydro to implement the first fully operational TETRA network in North America. This announcement was the culmination of many years’ work by the TCCA, and other TETRA advocates, to open up the North American market for TETRA to compete for non-public safety critical communications contracts. 

Widely used across all other continents, TETRA is now beginning to gain momentum in North America. New Jersey Transit (NJT), the third largest provider of bus and rail transportation services in the US, conducted the country’s first TETRA trial. This was successfully completed early in 2011 by Alcatel-Lucent, with PowerTrunk as the equipment provider. It resulted in the NJT board of directors giving its approval in March to enter into a contract with Alcatel-Lucent for a TETRA-based network for the bus radio system.

This year, another US transit authority, New York City Transit, also conducted a successful trial using PowerTrunk TETRA equipment.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin, Nielson Communications has been operating a trial TETRA system with infrastructure equipment from Rohde & Schwarz (now Hytera), with terminals from Sepura and data modems from Piciorgros. This system is being demonstrated to a variety of commercial and utility customers. Sepura has announced the appointment of Nielson Communications as its first TETRA distributor in the United States, and Cartel Communication Systems as its first distributor in Canada. Damm has also announced partnerships with both companies.

April 2012 also saw the formation of the North America TETRA Forum (NATF). TETRA forums already bring interested parties together in Australasia, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, South Africa and Poland. They involve hardware manufacturers, solutions providers and users in joint initiatives designed to promote acceptance of the TETRA standard in their region.

Ongoing investment

From this fledgling market to the rest of the world, where TETRA goes from strength to strength. The European nationwide public safety networks, such as Airwave in the UK, Astrid in Belgium, C2000 in The Netherlands, SINE in Denmark, Rakel in Sweden, Virve in Finland, and Germany’s BDBOS system (which is expected to serve 500 000 users), are examples of long-term investment in TETRA technology.

In February, Motorola Solutions assumed responsibility for the Norway’s nationwide TETRA Nødnett project. Revenues for Motorola Solutions as the prime contractor through 2026 are anticipated to be approximately US$750 million – a significant investment in TETRA for the future of public safety by the Norwegian government.

In Asia, Cassidian signed a new three-year contract with Beijing Just Top Network Communications in March, covering the support and maintenance of the Beijing Government Shared TETRA network. This is the largest digital trunked network in the Asia-Pacific region and the biggest citywide TETRA network in the world, serving 76 000 subscribers. Initially supplied by Cassidian in 2003, the network has been extended four times.

In the Middle East, Thales is extending the Jordanian national TETRA network, designed to serve Jordan’s armed forces, public safety, police, security agencies and civil defence.

Commercial users

TETRA also continues its expansion in commercial sectors, consistently delivering the levels of performance required by an increasing number of market sectors looking for robust and reliable critical communications. These sectors include air, rail, road and water transport, utilities, mining, the oil and gas exploration, extraction and delivery industries, as well as commercial, manufacturing, retail and leisure organizations. From car plants to casinos, TETRA networks deliver critical communications over networks of all sizes, whether a single site or 3500. In oil and gas in particular, the availability of intrinsically-safe ATEX radios, which can be used in potentially explosive environments, has increased investment in TETRA. 

Among the many non-public safety TETRA contracts announced over the past 12 months were systems for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan, the Zhengzhou metro line and the Boao Forum for Asia 2012 in China; Billund International airport in Denmark; the Hannover Underground and the Schwebebahn suspension monorail in Germany; the Warsaw metro and the Adams coal mine in Poland; the Lima metro in Peru; Basque Railways (EuskoTren) and the town of Sant Boi de Llobregat, Spain; Hambantota International airport in Sri Lanka; and the South Yolotan-Osman gas field in Turkmenistan.

There have been mergers and acquisitions in the industry, most notably the takeover of the Rohde & Schwarz TETRA portfolio by Hytera, and Sepura’s acquisition of 3T Communications, which has already led to Sepura’s first combined infrastructure and terminals contract, worth over
€1 million, from a Far East transport customer.

Showcasing TETRA to the world

TETRA is regularly deployed to ensure resilient and secure communications at major sporting events, and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were supported by the Airwave TETRA networks. Airwave became the official private mobile radio (PMR) services provider to London 2012, the first time in Olympic history that this has become a sponsorship category.

Airwave delivered the dedicated Apollo Network, a private TETRA network serving all the London 2012 venues. Apollo was used by LOCOG personnel (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) to maintain contact with each other.

As the largest international event ever staged in the UK, the London 2012 Games were also an opportunity to showcase the nationwide Airwave network, the largest fully operational emergency communications network in the world.

Delivering on data

TETRA remains unchallenged in its excellence in voice communication, and is also beginning to service the growing demand for data services. While there is much discussion about mobile broadband, dedicated spectrum for critical communications use is not yet on the horizon in many parts of the world. Although the eventual solution is likely to be LTE-based, there are many hurdles to overcome before this becomes reality.

Today, and in the foreseeable future, TETRA and TETRA Enhanced Data Services (TEDS) will meet the data needs of critical communications users. Last year, Motorola Solutions gained the first formal TEDS interoperability (IOP) certification, and Cassidian announced the field trial of TEDS with Virve in Finland. This year the two companies have taken a step further in multi-vendor IOP by announcing that they have successfully completed private IOP testing of the Motorola TEDS-capable mobile terminal on Cassidian’s TEDS-capable infrastructure.

This paves the way for the first multi-vendor TEDS IOP certification by the end of 2012. Interoperability testing between manufacturers has been a major success factor for TETRA, ensuring a robust and competitive market.

The deployment of consumer mobile broadband services is driving demand for similar high-speed data services from the critical communications user community. It is essential that these users continue to benefit from the resilience, functionality and coverage already delivered by TETRA voice networks. TETRA and TEDS deliver low and medium-speed data capabilities that meet these criteria and enable many of the data services through the use of efficient applications.


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