Texas Firm Plans First U.S. TETRA SMR Network in Houston
Tuesday, December 15, 2015 | Comments
The first U.S. TETRA-based SMR network is set to launch in the Houston area in early 2016. Texas Bigfoot Communications plans to have six sites on the air to target the critical communications and business/industry markets in the area.

Jeff Scott Cofsky, vice president and chief technology officer (CTO) of Texas Bigfoot, said the company’s goal is to have 43 sites online in the next five years. Employees are doing drive testing to track coverage on the current sites through the end of the year, and Jan. 1 is the turn-up date.

The company operates a seven-site PassPort SMR network and plans to transition those customers to the new digital TETRA network. Cofsky said the company hopes to snag an anchor customer such as a large hospital, college or educational facility, or any large campus.

“We are looking for campus environments,” he said. “TETRA is an efficient technology for those customers. We’ll offer campus environments a specialized package to mitigate the cost to them. We have lots of ways to meet their budgetary needs.”

The network will use 450 MHz Part 22 spectrum, and a three-site pilot network has been operating for several months. The company will begin marketing the new service in January, focusing on educating customers about TETRA’s mature and global deployments. The marketing will also discuss how the technology can help a business grow and become more efficient.

Texas Bigfoot purchased infrastructure from Sepura, which in May acquired Teltronic, the parent company of PowerTrunk.

The Texas Bigfoot network uses 20-kilohertz channels, with four time slots so Texas Bigfoot will have less equipment than with other technologies, Cofsky said. The company’s three base stations have two carriers each, and each carrier has four time slots. So with eight channels on each site, the pilot is a 24-channel network.

“Once you get past the first carrier, your per-carrier cost starts mitigating downwards,” he said. “Interference is less because your channels are fewer. And it is much easier to mitigate any interference.”

TETRA handsets are more expensive than some other digital technologies, and one challenge has been finding low-cost terminals, Cofsky said.

Texas Bigfoot covers about one-quarter of Texas with its licenses. “There is an opportunity for other players to come into the market in Dallas and San Antonio,” Cofsky said.

Sandra Wendelken is editor of MissionCritical Communications and RadioResource International magazines. Contact her at swendelken@RRMediaGroup.com.

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On 12/31/15, Andrew Schwartz said:
Jeff, well done. We look forward to following your deployment and hearing about the types of applications you and your customers will be taking advantage of given the great data capability vs. other digital LMR technologies. We're a big TETRA supporter and glad to see that you are leading the way in the SMR business. Perhaps you've taken the proverbial finger out of the dam and others will rapidly follow. TETRA is a great technology, and we're glad it's finally here.

On 12/22/15, Bert Bouwers said:
Does the 20-kiloherz channels of the Texas Bigfoot network allow any brand of TETRA radio to be used on the network?

On 12/22/15, Bob Roberts said:
It's probably a push when you look at all the pros and cons of TETRA vs. Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) and all its tiers. But I'm surprised a PassPort system is going with TETRA because of the infrastructure investment. TETRA terminals are cheap and comparable with other digital technologies. I am sure some significant discounts are being given to make this happen.

On 12/22/15, Jeff Scott Cofsky said:
Our choice for TETRA was a driven by a sincere desire for an open standards network period.

We are planning on using all available TETRA terminal products that can operate on our network including Sepura PowerTrunk Hytera Airbus and even Motorola if they ever enter the market That is the beauty of TETRA No more getting locked into any single source supplier for terminals radio units .

TETRA is the only technology platform that will give our dealer network and end user customers the ultimate freedom in choice of equipment options and costs.

Many sincere thanks to all those who brought TETRA to the U.S. markets and those who support its further deployments and development in the U.S. markets.
A long awaited birthing.

On 12/22/15, Jeff Scott Cofsky said:
All can operate on our network as long as they have FCC type acceptance for operation in Part 22 and or Part 90 spectrum bands. I would check with your chosen manufacturer first before attempting a deployment. If you're not sure let me know.

On 12/16/15, Ed Velez said:
I would say TETRA terminals are cheaper than their Project 25 (P25) counterparts. TETRA with proper pricing should be sub-$1,000 per unit.

On 12/16/15, Jose Martin said:
TETRA is the most affordable mission-critical-capable LMR technology available in the United States, offering cellular-like speech quality and effective background noise cancellation, as well as more data throughput vs. used bandwidth than any other technology thanks to its state-of-the-art linear modulation.

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