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Tetra plus broadband

Date: 01st February 2012
Topic: News
Tags: LTE

Harnessing LTE technology has emerged as the most promising way of adding broadband capability to the Tetra ecosystem, it emerged at a meeting in Barcelona this month. The two-day workshop, organized by the Tetra and Critical Communications Association, brought together representatives of manufacturers, standards-makers, system operators and major users to help clarify the user requirement and find a way ahead.

While the growing public LTE networks promise ample bandwidth at temptingly low costs, speakers at the workshop warned against relying on them for essential communications: they may lack adequate radio coverage and are likely to fail at precisely the times when they are needed most – during a crisis.

“We must not get seduced by the superficial benefits of using technologies that were not designed for delivering critical communications”, declared TCCA chairman Phil Godfrey, opening the discussions. “Let us not be responsible for short-changing those that look after the health
and welfare of the citizens of this world.”

Users’ needs

Developing a broadband version of Tetra is no longer seen as commercially viable, and so the question now is how to couple LTE with the Tetra world – whether by making changes in the standard, piping Tetra through in IP packets, adding an integration layer or even just by paying a public operator to provide priority service with resilience and wider coverage.

All the same challenges confront users of APCO P25 and France’s Tetrapol, too. In a new spirit of co-operation between former rivals, two speakers from the Tetrapol community presented their own perspective at the TCCA meeting while the president of the Tetrapol Forum sat among their listeners.

Another speaker was from UIC, the global railways organization, which is potentially in an even more uncomfortable position. The railways have their own mission-critical PMR standard, based on GSM technology, but their user community is too small to justify the expense of developing a next-generation version.

Inconveniently, basic LTE technology has no support for voice calls, let alone advanced PMR features such as talkgroups, emergency calls and data broadcast. A race is now on, then, to complete a definition of users’ requirements for future broadband services, and to submit proposals to 3GPP as soon as possible for including PMR support in LTE, through the forthcoming 3GPP Release 12 standard.

  • The global Tetra community’s first awards event will take place in London next month, March 16, at The Savoy:


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