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O N L I N E  E X C L U S I V E

First U.S. TETRA Pilot Launches in New Jersey, Another Planned in Wisconsin

January 06, 2011

Andrew Schwartz
 
 
 
After more than a decade of lobbying by vendors and TETRA advocates, the first TETRA pilot in the United States is under way in New Jersey. The New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) launched the TETRA network in Newark using equipment from PowerTrunk. The pilot began in November and will be completed by late January or early February.
 
In addition to the New Jersey pilot, a three-site TETRA pilot demonstrating multi-vendor interoperability will begin in Wisconsin near the end of January. The system will be open to anyone interested in participating, said Rick Nielson, president of Nielson Communications in Green Bay.
 
TETRA networks are deployed around the world with the exception of North America. In 2009, the TETRA Association filed a request for waiver of Parts 2 and 90 of the FCC’s rules to allow TETRA technology to be used in the United States. The FCC put the request out for public comment in December 2009. All comments were due in January 2010, but the commission hasn’t ruled on the request.
 
NJ Transit’s two-site network consists of PowerTrunk base stations, mobiles, portables, a line dispatcher and a switch to integrate a legacy VHF system. In addition, the network is integrated with an existing CAD system, and a PowerTrunk PABX/PSTN gateway allows full duplex cellular-like communications between cell or public switched phones and PowerTrunk radios. The pilot operates on a combination of a leased T-1 line and a private optical fiber backbone with routers configured for Ethernet Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) required by PowerTrunk-T infrastructure equipment.
 
“It is important that NJ Transit conduct technical due diligence on available digital LMR systems as we move closer to finalizing functional specifications to replace our aging analog LMR system,” said NJ Transit Director of Radio Communications Andrew Schwartz. “We must ensure the technology we ultimately acquire through a competitive process is scalable, maintainable and supports a rich set of features to address current and future intelligent transportation system (ITS) applications, including robust data capabilities.”
 
NJ Transit has also piloted Harris OpenSky technology and plans to release a request for proposals (RFP) to replace its existing 800 MHz trunked radio system in late February or early March pending administrative approvals, Schwartz said. “The TETRA coverage was better than predicted. This is still being characterized,” he said.
 
TETRA is a digital European-based standard developed originally for public-safety applications. However, numerous transportation agencies around the world have deployed TETRA technology in recent years.
 
Last month, PowerTrunk gained authorization from the FCC and Industry Canada for its TETRA HTT-500 subscriber unit and its MDT-400 mobile unit to operate in the 409 – 470 and 806 – 870 MHz bands. The subscriber unit type approvals followed the approvals of the PowerTrunk TETRA BSR75 base station radio/repeater earlier last year.
 
PowerTrunk also offers Project 25 (P25) equipment, and recently partnered with Kenwood Communications on P25 for public-safety markets. In December, PowerTrunk posted supplier’s declaration of compliance (SDoCs) for its P25 infrastructure under the Compliance Assessment Program (CAP).
 
“We chose to pilot PowerTrunk’s TETRA LMR because of their leadership in bringing TETRA to the U.S., their success in winning FCC type-acceptance for their equipment under Part 90, and their track record of successful transit LMR deployments,” Schwartz said. “To date, results have been positive. We have used the PowerTrunk-T system alongside our legacy LMR system without any interference issues.”
 
NJ Transit is the largest statewide public transportation system in the United States, providing more than 895,000 weekday trips on 240 bus routes, three light rail lines and 12 commuter rail lines. It is the third-largest transit system in the country.
 
“PowerTrunk’s specialized transportation-ready TETRA equipment is operational in some of the largest train, subway and bus systems around the globe. Our transportation customers include the STC Subway in Mexico City, the second most populous metropolitan area in the world,” said Jose Martin, chief operating officer (COO) of PowerTrunk. “We are honored that NJ Transit chose to host the first U.S. TETRA pilot with us.”
 
In the past, there have been questions about whether intellectual property rights (IPRs) held by Motorola block the technology from the North American market. In a November 2009 letter to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), a Motorola executive said that FCC and Industry Canada certifications aren’t enough to allow the technology to be offered in North America. “Type approval is only one consideration for TETRA deployment in North America,” said Mike Kraus, Motorola licensing director, in the 2009 letter.
 
“Motorola continues to believe that a standards-based approach for introducing TETRA into North America is the best way to ensure that the technical challenges, interference risks and FCC rules are appropriately considered,” said Matthew Messinger, Motorola Solutions spokesman.
 
PowerTrunk’s Martin said other U.S. pilots are being discussed. In addition to its 800 MHz and UHF TETRA equipment type acceptance, the company is working to get 700 MHz type acceptance from the FCC as well.
 
A Canadian utility, BC Hydro, in 2009 conducted a pilot of TETRA technology. The utility then released an RFP for a new digital radio system, and the utility's procurement process is in progress, said Sol Lancashire, telecom architect at BC Hydro. 
 
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