Creating an open and competitive TETRA market

IMG_8867_PhilPhil Godfrey, chair of the TCCA, provides an introduction to the Association’s twenty years of promoting the interests of all parties from the TETRA community.

The TCCA reaches its 20th anniversary this year, with the industry going from strength to strength. The initiative for the Association came from a number of interested parties who were keen to ensure that TETRA became a well-supported standard in Europe. This was in the autumn of 1994. A group of some dozen individuals, myself included, met at the headquarters of TeleDanmark (now TDC A/S) in Copenhagen to discuss how this could be achieved. Industry and user organisations were present along with the European Commission and the chairman of ETSI’s Radio Equipment and Systems technical committee RES06 which was creating the standard.

Key to the success of a technology is a recognised standard with an open and competitive market. To encourage this TeleDanmark initiated discussions about creating an Interoperability Testing Process to ensure that all TETRA products were fully compatible with each other. This philosophy became the well-known IOP process. It has proven to be highly successful with TETRA present in more than 130 countries. Over three million terminals are now in operation.

To create the Association, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was developed that stated support for the creation of the standard, support for the ETSI process and an agreement not to promote alternative technologies into ETSI for digital PMR. The first signatures to the MoU were announced in December 1994 and, within two months we had a dozen members and subgroups looking at IOP, Type Approval, Certification Marks and logos, Spectrum and Police Liaison. The result is the strongest critical communications standard in the world, and the foundation for the future.

An ongoing success story

The TCCA leads the global development and promotion of TETRA critical communications for professional users. It represents the interests of its members by working to ensure the delivery of secure, robust and reliable mobile communications worldwide.

Last year set another record for shipments of TETRA terminals – showing an increase over 2012 which was in itself a record year. According to independent global information company IHS, some 600,000 new and replacement terminals shipped in 2013, and it sees the upward trend continuing, expecting more than 4 million active terminals by 2017. The TETRA infrastructure market is projected to grow at 7-to-8 per cent over 2013.

The adoption of TETRA continues apace, demonstrating that excellence ensures longevity. The first commercial contract, for Gardermoen (Oslo) Airport in Norway, was signed in 1997. The same year saw the first operational multi-site TETRA trial system for evaluation by the States of Jersey emergency authorities.

Today, there are TETRA networks on every continent. The TCCA has more than 150 member organisations from around the world, and in 2011 changed its name from the TETRA Association to the TETRA & Critical Communications Association – TCCA. This reflects its broader operations in securing spectrum and standardisation for critical communications broadband data services to complement TETRA’s unique voice and data services with high speed data capability.

TETRA is without doubt an on-going success story, and the TCCA is proud to represent the members that built, and continue to expand, that success.

There have been many significant milestones since 1994 for the TCCA, and to mark the 20th anniversary some of its principal work is highlighted on the following pages.

Committed to interoperability

Key to the strength of the TETRA market is the TCCA’s TETRA Interoperability (IOP) Certification Process, the most rigorous of its kind in the critical communications world. It is a strict, independent testing programme, developed to ensure a truly open and competitive multi-vendor market.

The process is managed by the Technical Forum, a TCCA Working Group formed in 1999, and conducted by the independent testing house ISCOM, part of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development. Targets and priorities are set each year in agreement with the Operators & Users Association (OUA) Working Group.

For every feature that is to be certified, a TETRA Interoperability Profile (TIP) specification is created, together with an Interoperability Test Plan. This is a detailed document that ensures the tests are repeatable and identical in all test sessions. After the TIP and Test Plan have been approved, test sessions can be conducted. The first TIP and IOP Certificates were published in 1999 – each certificate issued is for a specific infrastructure-radio terminal combination.

In 2013, the 750th TETRA interoperability test certificate was issued. Potential TETRA customers can see all the IOP certificates on the TCCA website for reassurance that certified devices are proven to work on, and across, all TETRA networks, irrespective of the manufacturer.

Opening up new markets

Although firmly established around the world as the leading critical communications technology, it was only in 2012 that TETRA became available in the US and Canada. Many years of work by the TCCA and other advocates led to a final ruling by the US Federal Communications Commission to permit the unrestricted use of TETRA in the 450-470 MHz and 809-824/854-869 MHz bands.

TETRA contracts have already been announced in the US and Canada. The TCCA’s North America TETRA Forum helps to promote the technology in the region, and works with the TCCA’s event partners IIR Telecoms to run the annual TETRA Congress Americas event.

The TCCA runs a comprehensive events programme, designed to take TETRA to its markets. The Association works with IIR Telecoms to stage the annual Critical Communications series of events. This year’s started in The Netherlands, moving on to Singapore, Dubai, and the US. The TCCA also runs a series of one-day combined exhibition and conference events, whose locations are based on feedback from TCCA members as to where such an event would be most effective. For example, this year, the events are in The Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico and Peru.

Building critical communications broadband

Rakel_StockholmTETRA delivers unrivalled critical communications voice and some data services, but it is not a broadband technology. Conscious that critical communications users would be looking to increase their use of data, the TCCA formed the Critical Communications Broadband Group (CCBG) in 2011.

The CCBG works with other stakeholders worldwide to drive the standardisation of future common, global, mobile broadband LTE technology solutions for critical communications users. It lobbies governments and regulators for appropriate, and as far as possible harmonised, spectrum for the deployment of future critical communications broadband networks. CCBG participants include user organisations, governments, operators, standards and regulatory bodies, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, consultants, and other parties with an interest in the future of broadband for critical communications.

The CCBG aims to enable all mission-critical and business critical users to access their information systems, intranet and internet at broadband speeds using their professional mobile devices anywhere and anytime they have the need. This broadband capability should meet the specific needs of the user in the same way that critical voice and narrowband data services are today delivered by current technologies such as TETRA, Tetrapol, P25, GSM-R and others.

The CCBG concluded that LTE was the best core technology for providing future broadband services for critical communications users. But LTE needs some significant additions to enable these services to be delivered. The body responsible for developing 3G, 4G and other future cellular mobile technologies is 3GPP. The TCCA has been working with them to identify the additional core functionality that is essential for critical communications users.

3GPP_MRPIn 2013, the TCCA was awarded Market Representation Partner (MRP) status in 3GPP (pictured right). MRP status is given to organisations which have the ability to offer market advice to 3GPP and to bring a consensus view of market requirements such as services, features and functionality that fall within its scope.

Seeking spectrum

With broadband data services over LTE set to become critical to the effectiveness of the emergency services in the next few years, the TCCA is spearheading a campaign to ensure spectrum across Europe is guaranteed for public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) use. Other regions have already taken the decision to allocate spectrum specifically for LTE critical communications use.

With critical data features currently being incorporated into the LTE standards, LTE networks could be carrying critical broadband data within five years. However, without sufficient spectrum, these mission-critical services will be rendered ineffective if they have to compete for bandwidth with smartphone-led consumer applications.

Currently, TETRA has dedicated spectrum for voice and some data services. The value of this has been repeatedly proven time and time again when these critical communications networks remain fully operational during crisis situations, while commercial mobile networks have become overloaded.

There is a narrowing window of opportunity to inform governments and regulators, who will take the decision on spectrum allocation after the World Radio communications Conference next year. If the lobbying is successful, then the TCCA can chalk this up as another success.

The future of critical communications

TETRA continues its expansion around the world in both public safety and commercial sectors, consistently delivering the levels of performance required by an increasing number of users looking for robust and reliable critical communications. Germany is currently implementing what is already the largest nationwide TETRA network in the world.

DubaiThese users include air, rail, road and water transport; utilities; mining; the oil and gas exploration, extraction and delivery industries, as well as manufacturing, retail and leisure organisations. In oil and gas in particular, the availability of intrinsically safe ATEX radios, which can be used in potentially explosive environments, has increased investment in TETRA.

TETRA is regularly deployed to ensure resilient and secure communications at major events. Airwave in the UK, operator of the Fortestcue_Metals_Group_trainpublic safety TETRA network for Great Britain’s emergency services, also delivered the dedicated Apollo Private Mobile Radio Network for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, while the TETRA network in Belgium supported communications around the visit of US President Barack Obama earlier this year.

The TCCA is committed to supporting its members and all users of critical communications worldwide in establishing TETRA in new markets and supporting its global expansion; working to ensure the best solution for critical broadband data services, and lobbying to help secure dedicated spectrum for PPDR in Europe.

Now, and in the future, mission-critical communications need to be secure, reliable and available. Much has been achieved during these first 20 years – we look forward to achieving further successes in the future.

Phil Godrey is chair of the TCCA