A Global Call for Data
June 12, 2012
Photo courtesy IIR Telecoms
Long Term Evolution (LTE) seems to be the technology of choice to deliver data for mission-critical users, but limitations in spectrum are prohibiting immediate deployment. TETRA technology offers some data with the TETRA Enhanced Data Service (TEDS), but for many, as one user put it, “TEDS are too little, too late.”
End users around the world have data needs, and those needs won’t be disappearing any time soon. Repeatedly users spoke at the 2012 TETRA World Congress about the need to incorporate broadband services into their communications systems. The challenges inherent with delivering broadband, mainly spectrum, were also repeatedly addressed during the three-day conference.
Users and industry insiders alike agreed that the TETRA market for mission-critical voice is strong and will remain so well into the 2020s. “TETRA will remain the technology of choice for mission-critical voice,” said TETRA + Critical Communications Association (TCCA) Board Member Jeppe Jepsen.
“The broadband promise is coming, and we will see TETRA capabilities expanding,” said David Chater-Lea, a fellow of the technical staff with Motorola Solutions. “But I don’t believe TETRA will ever go away. They will be living together for a long time.”
The TETRA Association recognized this data evolution when it changed the association’s name to TCCA
, and the World Congress is following suit. Next year the event will be expanded to incorporate other technologies, renaming the event Critical Communications World.
Hannu Aronsson, chairman of the TCCA applications working group technical forum, is working on applications that encourage mission-critical data on TETRA radios. “Activities are moving from voice to data,” he said. Control rooms are becoming silent as more data-based information is used, he said.
During his presentation, Capt. Mohammed Alkhanbashi, Abu Dhabi Police, said his agency needs more data, faster transitions and a more robust wireless network that TETRA can’t support. The police force’s TETRA system supports more than 16,000 users for voice communications. The original network’s transition plans called for a transition from a standalone voice network and applications to integration between the two systems via TEDS and then to an efficient and effective system using LTE. However, now it is believed that TEDS is not sufficient to meet their needs, he said. “LTE is moving from a ‘might have’ to a ‘must have,’ ” he said.
Brigadier Eng. Ali Salem Al Henzab, director of the Telecoms Department, Qatar Ministry of Interior (MOI), made similar remarks during his presentation. “We are very happy with TETRA for voice, but it doesn’t meet our requirements for data,” he said. The public-safety market needs to receive more attention from the manufacturers, even though the market is small, he said.
Qatar is working with Portalify to develop a mobile data platform to bring LTE and the nationwide TETRA network together. The country’s data needs include technology independence, a seamless and transparent system irrespective of technology and applications, as well as a system that is service selective, barer selective and intuitive, said Nick Koiza, executive vice president, Portalify.
One challenge for vendors is how to meet the high needs, coverage and requirements of a mission-critical system over an LTE network, which right now has been developed for commercial use. “LTE today is a commercial technology; our challenge is to make it a mission-critical technology,” said Eric Davalo, CTO, Cassidian.
The technology must be adapted. “You can’t give a user less than what they have today,” said Brain Murgatroyd, chairman of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) technical committee.
During the World Radiocommunications Conference 2012 (WRC-12) a request originating from the Middle East/Africa sub-region resulted in a resolution to allocate the frequency band 694 – 790 MHz in Region 1 to the mobile (except aeronautical mobile) service on a co-primary basis with other services to which the band is allocated on a primary basis and to identify it for international mobile telecommunications (IMT). The allocation will be effective immediately after WRC-15, said TCCA Chairman Phil Godfrey.
“This gives the opportunity for personal protection and disaster recovery (PPDR) to make use of this band and for it to be harmonized with the U.S.,” Godfrey said. “I understand that public-safety agencies in parts of the Middle East and Africa are already looking to use this for PPDR. We hope that we can encourage the European regulators to follow suit.”
In Europe, it was agreed that PPDR spectrum needs would be discussed in 2015, and it is now considered a “policy objective.”
“We need spectrum, and we’re looking at the 700 MHz band,” said Richard Bobbett, CEO of Airwave Solutions in the U.K. “But that’s probably five to seven years away.”
Realistically, mission-critical broadband data won’t be available in Europe until after 2020, said Hans Borgonjen, senior coordinator, Vts Politie Nederlands.
A spectrum conference was held in Asia recently with more than 200 spectrum managers, but progress toward harmonized spectrum faced difficulties. Regulators are more inclined to promote economic growth using the spectrum, said Jolly Wong, chief technical engineer, Hong Kong Police.
In the Meantime
Any guess for when the world will see globalized, harmonized broadband networks for mission-critical users is hard to predict. While the spectrum and technology issues are addressed, end users have a few options for incorporating data.
Although the Qatar government and Abu Dhabi Police don’t believe TEDS can support their needs, other users are happy with the technology. “We have to be careful stimulating interest in the future because there is a danger of over hype about what can be done in the future and taking our eye off today’s problems,” said Godfrey. TEDS is a good step, he said.
Croatia’s national police network is starting to incorporate data, said Marijo Novosel, head of the TETRA network management, Croatian Ministry of Interior. The network is using short data service (SDS), which department officials found to be fast and reliable, Novosel said. “The users are happy with the data at the moment,” he said. The SDS allows the police to use the TETRA system as efficiently as possible, he said.
In Norway, a nationwide TETRA network will begin TEDS implementation next year, said Tor Helge Lyngstøl, director, the Directorate for Emergency Communication (DNK), Norway. The country is held up from using LTE until Europe addresses the harmonized spectrum issues. “TEDS will be the way to go if the data is mission critical,” he said. “If it’s not mission critical, we can use commercial networks.”
The use of commercial networks is something several other users are opting to do. About 80 percent of all agencies (public safety and otherwise) are using a commercial cellular network to service their data needs, said Thomas Lynch, IMS Research.