Lack of spectrum is hindering TETRA’s efforts to evolve into the wireless broadband era, said industry executives Thursday.
Broadband data was high on the agenda at this year’s TETRA World Congress this week as users of the trunked radio technology – from public safety agencies to vertical industries like transport and energy – have been increasingly interested in implementing high-speed data apps like streaming video and image transmission.
Some vendors, like Motorola and EADS Defense & Security, unveiled the first new products for TEDS (TETRA Enhanced Data Services).
Last week, 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, current TEDS gear 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 TETRA.
“Public safety agencies were never allocated much spectrum for TETRA because it used 25 kHz channels and didn’t generate high-volume traffic,” says Kevin Graham, Asia-Pacific regional director for Sepura. “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.”
Even if competition for new spectrum weren’t already fierce, the other problem is that TETRA users themselves aren’t sure just how much spectrum they need, says David Chater-Lea, fellow of the Technical Staff at Motorola and chairman of ETSI WG4.
“Despite all the interest in higher-bandwidth apps, the public safety sector is still learning what they can do with data with the spectrum they have,” Chater-Lea says. “The more they use it, the more they’ll see the need for additional spectrum, but it will take a long time to get that moving.”
Also missing is a lack of organized regulator lobbying on behalf of TETRA users. On Wednesday, the TETRA Association signed a formal agreement with public safety communications forum PSC Europe to cooperate in lobbying the EU government for more spectrum.
But in Asia – which at 25% global market share is the second largest TETRA region after Western Europe, and the faster growing of the two – no such centralized spectrum allocation body exists.
EADS CTO Eric Davalo consequently urged delegates in a keynote to take action in their home markets.
“You’re going to need more spectrum to get more data capability, so it’s up to you to go back to your national regulators and ask for it,” he said.
“You have to demonstrate a real need for it, because mobile operators and broadcasters already have their lawyers pushing for more spectrum. We need to do the same thing. It won’t be solved in two days or even two years, but you need to start pushing now and keep pushing if you want to succeed.”
In the meantime, Sepura’s Graham said TEDS – and TETRA 2 in general – is still likely a couple of years away in terms of live deployments.
“Users still need to get the spectrum for it, and once they get it they’ll have to go through a test and trial phase,” he said.