TETRA seeks broadband

John C Tanner
08 Sep 2010

With the commercial telecoms sectors pushing broadband services at ever-growing data speeds - and the mobile industry in particular increasingly data-centric thanks to smartphones, dongles and migration to 4G - it should be no surprise that the vertical and public comms sector is also setting its sights on broadband.

The need for speed in the public and vertical space has been highlighted in the last couple of years via interest in municipal Wi-Fi mesh networks that public safety agencies can access for transmitting photos and video streams. But such solutions aren't without drawbacks, chief among them the capex and opex involved, coverage requirements and security and reliability issues.
However, one thing driving interest in such solutions was the fact that dedicated digital trunked radio systems like TETRA, TETRAPOL and P25 - which public safety agencies and vertical industries like transport and energy have been using for one-to-many comms for years - do not support fast data speeds.

Not right now, anyway. That's set to change in the TETRA community with the arrival of TEDS (TETRA Enhanced Data Services), an upgrade feature included in TETRA 2, the next-gen version of the original TETRA trunked radio standard developed by ETSI.
Indeed, broadband data was high on the agenda at this year's TETRA World Congress in Singapore in May. Several vendors at the event, including Motorola and EADS Defence & Security, unveiled the first new TEDS products. The same month, EADS also announced the world's first TEDS pilot with VIRVE, Finland's nationwide TETRA network run by State Security Networks.

While first-gen TETRA supports low-speed data apps (less than 5 kbps) in a 25 kHz channel, TEDS offers considerably faster speeds, albeit more on par with first-wave 3G networks like UMTS and cdma2000. Speeds depend on modulation schemes and spectrum availability, but TEDS can support channels as wide as 150 kHz and, with 64 QAM modulation and four slots, can hit data speeds of close to 540 kbps.

However, TETRA customers hungry for broadband face a number of challenges in implementing TEDS. And the biggest one is a lack of spectrum to support it.

Spectrum problems

In fact, despite its potential 540-kbps capabilities, the first wave of TEDS gear coming out now will be limited to between 50 kbps and 100 kbps via four slots in a 50 kHz channel primarily due to limited spectrum availability for existing TETRA systems, says Kevin Graham, Asia-Pacific regional director for Sepura.

"Public safety agencies were never allocated much spectrum for TETRA because it used 25 kHz channels and didn't generate high-volume traffic," Graham told Wireless Asia. "Now in Asia we're seeing a lot of effort in spectrum reform, but everyone wants more - not just TETRA users, but mobile operators and broadcasters as well."

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