UTC Group to Explore TETRA for U.S. Market
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | Comments



By Sandra Wendelken, Editor

The Utilities Telecom Council’s (UTC) Technical Division will form a working group to address technical issues related to the use of TETRA technology in the United States. During a meeting at UTC’s annual Telecom 2009 conference and exposition in Las Vegas last week, executives from five TETRA manufacturers, including Motorola, agreed to work together through the group.

TETRA is deployed worldwide with the exception of North America. In the past, there have been questions about whether intellectual property rights (IPRs) held by Motorola block the technology from the North American market. Chuck Jackson, Motorola Sales and Service Inc. (MSSI) vice president and director of system operations, said the past issues have not been IPR based, but rather that TETRA doesn’t meet FCC requirements and therefore is not a U.S. standard.

Jackson said if all the technical and spectrum-related issues are worked out, Motorola would not prohibit the technology’s use in North America. However, he said there must be a technical document put together among the vendors describing how TETRA will be developed in the U.S. market. Otherwise, one vendor could manufacture TETRA for the U.S. market one way, and another vendor a second way, and the different flavors may not be interoperable. “If UTC works to resolve the FCC type-acceptance issues and the spectrum planning requirements to ensure no interference to other users, Motorola will license TETRA’s IPR,” Jackson said.

The group is tasked with identifying appropriate U.S. spectrum bands for the technology and addressing channel spacing, emission mask changes and other technical issues. “It’s an appropriate first step,” said Ron Beck, with Central Lincoln People’s Utility District in Oregon and chair of UTC’s technical division, who will head the working group.

Bill Moroney, president and CEO of UTC, asked the group, which includes TETRA vendors, UTC members and consultants, to have a document in place that addresses the technical changes needed to meet FCC Part 90 rules within 60 days.

“UTC is not promoting TETRA,” Beck said. “We’re here to satisfy our members’ interest.” Klaus Bender, director of engineering for UTC, said: “Our members are looking for an advanced technology that is at a good price point.”

Phil Kidner, CEO of the TETRA Association, said pilots of the technology will be under way concurrently with the technical work. BC Hydro, the third-largest electric utility in Canada, will begin a trial of TETRA technology in coming weeks. Kidner said non-public-safety pilots in the United States would be announced shortly.

“We want to demonstrate the capabilities we’ve been talking about for so long but haven’t been able to show users,” Kidner said. “We want to test the interoperability inherent in the standard.”

Kidner said the BC Hydro pilot will include two or three sites, and equipment is being delivered and installed soon. The pilot will include infrastructure and terminals from Teltronic, a Spanish company that markets Project 25 (P25) gear in North America under the PowerTrunk brand. Subscriber units from Sepura, a U.K.-based company that manufactures TETRA terminals, will also be used for the pilot.

The TETRA manufacturers represented at the meeting included Motorola, PowerTrunk, Rohill, Sepura and Team Simoco.

UTC members first expressed interest in TETRA technology about a year ago. Late last year, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), which oversees the standardization of TETRA technology, began discussions with Motorola about the technology’s deployment in North America.

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