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TETRA’s love affair with the Asia-Pacific

Date: 01st February 2012
Topic: Monthly Features
Issue: Issue 6
Manufacturer: Airbus Defence and Space, Motorola Solutions, Sepura
Tags: Rohde & Schwarz, TCCA

IMG_6421.jpgIf anyone needed convincing of the Asia-Pacific Region’s importance to the growth of TETRA, the global wanderings of the TETRA World Congress – to Hong Kong in 2008 and Singapore in 2010 – give an indication as to how the TETRA Association (now the TCCA) has viewed the region.

Between June 2007 and June 2008 the Asia-Pacific market doubled to become, according to the association, the fastest-growing critical communications market in the world. Transportation alone accounted for 40 per cent of that market. At that time, Phil Kidner, chief executive of the association, said: “The interest in TETRA technology is now coming from all regions of the world, but none more so than Asia, where the enthusiasm and speed of adoption is remarkable.”

Looking now at the situation in the region, he believes that – despite the claims of the DMR community – the only mission-critical radio technologies are P25 and TETRA. “TETRA is here today in over 125 countries”, he emphasizes. “It has more functionality for voice and data than any other technology. You can touch it, feel it, kick it even!”

He adds that he sees much of P25 as still “a promise to the future”. And to claims that you need many more TETRA base stations to cover a particular area than P25, Kidner states, categorically: “This is incorrect. It is true that the laws of physics say that a high-powered VHF signal will go further than a lower-powered UHF signal. But the reality is that topography, operational requirements and capacity mean that any difference is marginal.

“People should look at the whole-life costs and the whole-life benefits and then compare. P25 makes much about its ability to migrate from analogue. Using gateways, TETRA can replicate this.

“In my experience, once users themselves experience any digital radio, they wish to move away from analogue systems
as soon as possible. Today, over two million TETRA radios are currently in use. Approximately 20 per cent are in Asia, and despite the competition from other technologies, we predict that this percentage will increase significantly over the next five years.” 

Gaining ground

Terence Ledger, Sepura’s director for the region, told TETRA Today that whilst he sees the adoption of TETRA growing in Southeast Asia, particularly in the transport, mining and utility sectors, DMR is being considered by some users as an alternative purely because of the cost savings that can be made. Ledger added that China continues to be a growing market for TETRA in public safety and government sectors, despite proprietary Chinese standards competing in that market.

And he went on: “In Australia, where we have now deployed over 9000 terminals, TETRA is booming and is the standard of choice in the oil, gas and mining industries, where users include FMG [picture, right], BHP, LNG and Xstrata.”

TETRA had also been very successful in Australia’s hospitality industry, he said, with users including the Hyatt, Palazzo Versace, Sky City Darwin Casino (all in Darwin), as well as the Gold Coast Convention Centre in Queensland.

Ledger said that 2012 and beyond looks “very promising”, with continued acceptance of TETRA as the digital technology of choice. He said that public safety agencies tend to be predominantly P25 users, while industrial and transport sectors tend to be mixes of P25 and DMR – but that overall in the Australian market there are opportunities for TETRA to enter. He concluded that there is a real chance that government radio networks will start to move from P25 to TETRA, with Queensland being the first state that could make such a decision.

Alternatives

Having customers across the region in both the P25 and TETRA camps, Motorola Solutions commented on the potential for TETRA growth in the region with a large degree of business prudence. “Asia Pacific is a large and heterogeneous market where both TETRA and APCO-P25 technologies co-exist, and the customer may choose either technology based on their unique mission-critical requirements”, the company stated. “Considerations often include spectrum, coverage, scalability, long-term plans and type of application requirements they have, in order to meet their mission-critical needs.”

And it went on: “Being well-established open-standards-based technologies, both TETRA and APCO-P25 technologies offer clear roadmaps for evolution to the next generation of voice and data and are well supported by an ecosystem of equipment manufacturers and application developers in mission-critical communications, and to offer long-term value to its users.”

Leaving no hint as to which side of the fence the company might lean towards first, it wrapped up in diplomatic style, “Motorola Solutions is a global solution provider and in a unique position to offer both TETRA and APCO-P25 to support our customers’ choice. 

“Both technologies have been accepted well and will continue to serve our customers for years to come.” 

The newest products

Markus Oltmanns, of Rohde & Schwarz Professional Mobile Radio, suggested that with Asian customers “always requesting the newest standards and products”, continued growth of TETRA in the region was likely – despite competition, especially in the public safety sector, from P25 and from new and proprietary standards (including in China) such as PDT.

He added that a lot of opportunities for TETRA remained in regional growth markets for networks supporting what he calls “high-level applications” – infrastructure projects such as metros and railways, highways, airports, and harbours, as well as the mining, oil and gas, and offshore industries. 

Cases in point

There’s no better way to illustrate the rising uptake and spread of TETRA in Asia-Pac than with examples. Key players such as Motorola, EADS/Cassidian, Sepura and Rohde & Schwarz, to name but a few, are active in the region but, with user cases so numerous, only a few can be highlighted here.

Plans got underway to deliver Malaysia’s first nationwide TETRA network in 2007, when Rohde & Schwarz was authorized by the Malaysian Government to deliver and integrate a countrywide trunked radio network with the Sapura Group. Accepted in early 2010, the new system is ramping up steadily, with more and more users registering. It replaced a situation where user groups throughout the country operated different systems; intercommunication and interoperability between these agencies and regions had been very unreliable with frequent breakdown in communications, even at critical times.

Deployment was conducted in several phases through Nokia Siemens Networks and the Sapura Group as local partner. Over 500 base stations, each with up to eight TETRA carriers, have been deployed across the network. Regional base stations and switching nodes, such as those under the authority of an individual administrative district, were networked using cluster technology in order to deliver readily available channels, so that voice and data traffic is automatically redirected as soon as interference occurs on a connection path.

Coverage of the system reaches 90 per cent of Malaysia’s populated area and 4675 km of coastline, as well as reaching 10 nautical miles out to sea. Up to 70 000 subscribers can be supported.

First responders

Motorola’s earliest TETRA forays in the Far East included a system for Beijing Police in China, who bought more than 27 000 TETRA portable radios for use by first responders across all emergency services. A system for the Korea National Police to support the 2002 FIFA World Cup was claimed to be Asia’s first (and Motorola’s largest, at the time) public safety 800 MHz TETRA system. 

Hong Kong Police followed, adopting the TETRA Dimetra IP system in 2003–4, with (at the time) three master switches, one for each police region – Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories, connected together to control approximately 100 cell sites. More than 10 000 radio terminals were provided in the initial phases for beat officers, police vehicles and motorcycles; 90 per cent of these were MTP750 handhelds.

More recently, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the company deployed Phase One of the country’s first wide-area TETRA digital trunked radio communications system for the Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam (VMOPS) – effectively the police services.

For a technically challenging project in 2003, Taiwan’s High Speed Rail Corporation selected Motorola’s Dimetra TETRA system to serve its entire 345 kilometres of track, including tunnels, stations and depots, and to operate on trains travelling at over 300 km/h. Main contractor for the project, which was claimed to be the world’s first TETRA solution for the high-speed rail industry, was Toshiba Corporation.

Aviation

In early 2008, the Hong Kong Airport Authority selected a Motorola Dimetra IP TETRA system for Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), to “enhance the efficiency of radio communications for airport operations” as rising passenger numbers placed heavier demands on the airport’s existing analogue system. The three-site TETRA network provides seamless communications and full interoperability among users in airport operations such as security, operations, maintenance, baggage handling and other ground services. Motorola’s solution supports simultaneous voice and data messaging, multi-slot packet data, telephone interconnect, voice logging and encryption.

At about the same time, South Korea’s national and largest airline, Korean Air, replaced an analogue radio system at its main hub with a digital TETRA-based private network – in the words of Lee Hyogeun, general manager of the airline’s IT department, to “enable us to implement new working practices on a secure and ultra-reliable framework”. The airline had spent nearly three years seeking and evaluating communication technology to meet its needs before settling on a Motorola solution. Today the network serves over 4000 employees using MTP850 TETRA portables, customized with Korean language keypads, and it is expected that remaining smaller airports will be brought on to the network in due course. 

In Singapore, Singapore Prison Services took on the first TETRA system for a public safety agency in the country. Phase One was fully operational by the end of 2004. In the following year, Motorola TETRA equipment worth US$5.4 million was commissioned at the PSA Singapore Terminal, the world’s largest trans-shipment container hub) to replace disparate analogue radio systems with an integrated digital platform. 

Other TETRA successes for Motorola in the region have included

a TETRA system in Shanghai to support the 9th Special Olympics in 2007: from more than 150 sites across the city, four trunked networks delivered service to over 10 000 users. 

systems for the Beijing Urban Transit Railway Corporation. Underlining the popularity of using TETRA in the region’s public transport, the Beijing municipal authority’s four light rail lines built before the 2008 Olympics are all equipped with mutually interoperable TETRA communications systems.

Medium-sized systems

Cassidian (formerly EADS Defence & Security) has enjoyed a series of successes in the Asia Pacific region with its Claricor TETRA technology for small and medium-sized networks. Suitable for systems ranging from a single site to networks supporting several thousand subscribers, Claricor is designed to meet the needs of airports, industry and transport sectors, with many of the advanced functions of larger networks.

Orders have included  a contract with HyunDai Oilbank in Korea for a system with one base station and more than 200 mobile and portable terminals, and five systems for Supreme Landmobile & Wireless (SLW), in Malaysia, one of the most country’s successful licensed 800 MHz operators. One of these systems, with more than 600 TETRA radios in use, secures
the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur – the world’s tallest twin buildings – and users in the surrounding commercial areas. 

A TETRA network from Cassidian also provided secure communication services during last year’s 26th World University Games in China, through a contract with the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau.

Energy industry

Another infrastructure supplier, Team Simoco, last year completed the supply of a TETRA system for the Badak liquid natural gas plant in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, in partnership with a local systems integrator,  PT Alssa. With the capacity to process over 22 million tonnes a year, the plant supplies customers in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Its single-site TETRA-G system covers an area of around 220 square kilometres from a single four-carrier transmission site, supporting more than 500 users equipped with intrinsically safe handportables. The system has fully-redundant switching for maximum reliability and a gateway which connects to legacy analogue networks.

Frequency shift

Terminal manufacturer Sepura has also enjoyed many successes in the Asia-Pacific region. In the mid-2000s, for example, the company became one of the largest TETRA radio suppliers to the military in South Korea when its handportables were selected by the Korea Combat Training Centre in the city of Inje. They were customized to operate at the 368 MHz frequency specifically required by the KCTC – an unusual frequency for a TETRA system.

Also in Korea, in early 2007, South Korea’s National Emergency Management Agency approved Sepura TETRA radio terminals for use on the country’s nationwide public safety network, when that network was entering its first phase of deployment. In the same year, a contract was signed to supply the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency with more
than 5000 TETRA radio terminals, including SRH3800 sGPS hand-held radios, and SRM3500 and SRG3500 in-vehicle radios.

“This order follows other significant sales to government, public safety and industrial sectors in Korea”, commented Kevin Graham, regional director for Sepura, at the time. “The National Emergency Management Agency project is one of the biggest and most important TETRA deployments anywhere in the world today, and we are excited that we will be playing a major role in supplying terminals into it as high numbers of users migrate over the next few years.”

Hotels and hospitality

By the end of 2007, Sepura had also homed in on the Australian marketplace, supplying handheld radios to the Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove resort in the city of Gold Coast, Queensland, replacing analogue radios. Also in Gold Coast, one of Sepura’s Australian channel partners, Trans Communications, later implemented its first TETRA digital system in Queensland within a commercial environment, at the Pacific Fair Shopping Centre. Radios were supplied to a variety of users within the centre for personnel location, management, maintenance, security and cleaning services.

And another Gold Coast deal was secured last year when the Gold Coast Suns, a new professional Australian Rules football team, chose Sepura TETRA radios for all aspects of their operations. The system includes Damm TETRA infrastructure and 140 Sepura terminals.



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