P25 Makes Strides Outside North America
Tuesday, October 08, 2013 | Comments


Although Project 25 (P25) began as a U.S. public-safety communications standard, the technology has expanded to countries around the world and into vertical markets outside public safety.

Beyond North America, where P25 is the most used technology among the thousands of public-safety agencies, Australia and Latin America — Brazil in particular — are the geographic areas seeing the strongest P25 growth, industry experts said. “We see significant growth in Latin America where government agencies are utilizing P25 to cover multisite and interoperable systems,” said Alan Lopez, Motorola Solutions marketing director, public-safety solutions.

Tait Communications is also seeing P25 deployments in Eastern Europe and Russia, Australasia and the Middle East. Russell Watson, Tait solutions marketing manager, said the countries that adopt P25 are similar in population density to the United States and Australia.

“It tends to be used in areas with low population density outside major cities and where buyers want a standardized vendor solution,” Watson said. “You see that in Brazil and Russia where they want a technology that can provide an environment with multiple vendors.”

The availability of radio spectrum, the adopted standard by partner agencies and the user density per coverage area are also factors that drive the choice to use one technology over another, said Motorola’s Lopez. “We continue to see strong interest in our mission-critical ASTRO 25 system outside North America in public safety and industries where there is a strong need for public-safety-grade reliability, security and also interoperability.”

Oil and gas, mining, transport and electric utility industries were all named as vertical markets adopting the standard. “Outside of public safety, we see demand for P25 in the mining and petrochemical industry focused on sea and rail transport operations,” Lopez said.

“We have seen P25 popping up in the mining industry, perhaps due to functional similarities to the trunked systems that they have historically used,” said Chris Leonard, director of international programs for Harris Public Safety and Professional Communications (PSPC). “This could also be partly attributed to the fact that the public-safety departments have already deployed the technology, so the benefits of P25 transfer are for interoperability purposes.”

Lopez said wide-area, remote and loud environments are attractive for P25 deployments. “The direct-mode performance and range of P25 radios help mining operations during the exploration phase, and they then transition to a trunked interoperable mode as they transition to extraction and transport,” he said.

"P25 systems are priced to be internationally competitive with similar digital platforms for public safety, secure government, military and paramilitary applications," said Dale Reitsma, Codan director of LMR product management. "P25 also competes very favorably in markets requiring a higher level of secure voice or data communications. The P25 technology infrastructure platforms are flexible and can be configured for a host of competitive applications supporting scalable systems that compete in rural, medium and high density customer applications."

Tait’s Watson said because P25’s coverage is similar to analog and it’s been proven in the public-safety arena, other markets are now more comfortable deploying the technology.

“P25 is a great option for the areas that have large coverage requirements and lower user densities,” said Harris’ Leonard. “With P25, users in larger areas require fewer base stations than TETRA users, which cuts down cost significantly and makes P25 a competitive technology.”

One drawback for the standard is that outside the United States, competition among vendors decreases. While about 15 suppliers offer mobile and portable radios in North America, they don’t all offer those radios on a global scale. About 15 companies supply base stations and repeaters in the United States but only four to five vendors offer those products outside North America. There is still competition but not on the scale of the U.S. and Canadian markets. In Australia, local companies enhance the competition in that market. And as the standard’s growth continues, competition will increase as well.

P25’s Phase 2 has spectral efficiency of 6.25-kilohertz channels. Regulators wanting more spectral efficiency drive some Phase 2 deployments, Watson said.

“I believe that P25 will continue to see deployments in areas with customer needs,” Watson said. “It does have that interoperability capability and creates a multivendor environment where customers get to choose. Phase 2 is interesting. We’ll see a lot of people continue to future proof themselves by putting in TDMA hardware; whether they turn it on is another question.”

To prepare for Long Term Evolution (LTE), the latest P25 networks have virtualized core components so that they can be expanded to include LTE and are capable of supporting data applications that can use both P25 and broadband networks seamlessly, Lopez said.

"The P25 technology platform and open standards development processes were created to advance public-safety communications and user security across both voice and digital domains," said Codan's Reitsma. "The open standards have ensured a significant leap in interoperable communications and have provided our customers with an interconnect path to LTE and future technologies."

“As more countries are making the switch to P25, there are still questions about how broadband and LTE will come into play worldwide,” Leonard said. “As with the evolution of the relationship between LTE and LMR in the United States, we anticipate that these technologies will grow to complement one another for the overall benefit of users.” 

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