Standards Work for VHF TETRA Complete, Vendors Assess Demand (12/2/13)
Monday, December 02, 2013 | Comments

By Sandra Wendelken
All the standards work that a manufacturer needs to develop TETRA equipment in VHF frequencies is complete, according to standards officials. Vendor executives said customer demand will determine how quickly VHF TETRA products hit the market.

“I hope the take-up of this frequency extension is happening fast,” said Brian Murgatroyd, chief of the technical committee TETRA and Critical Communications Evolution (TC TCCE) in the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). “I am fairly sure that TETRA manufacturers would not want to miss a market opportunity and have been working on this for a long time. I would expect announcements to be made at the next Critical Communications World Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, next May.”

Many mission-critical communications users in North America use VHF channels, although the FCC allowed TETRA only at UHF and 800 MHz in the United States. Japan has available 220 MHz spectrum that could be used for VHF TETRA. Other geographic areas that could adopt TETRA systems at VHF include Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa.

“I think that the only part of the world where VHF TETRA is unlikely is Western Europe where the VHF radio spectrum is already allocated to 12.5-kilohertz channeling and is unlikely to change as there are UHF bands allocated to TETRA, which suits high population densities,” Murgatroyd said.

Vendor representatives are aware the ETSI standards now allow for TETRA in VHF frequencies and plan to capitalize as it fits their businesses. “DAMM Cellular Systems sees this as an opportunity to make use of such frequencies in either new markets or in existing markets where it is difficult to have ‘regular’ TETRA frequencies allocated due to lack of available ones,” said Allan Detlefsen, DAMM director of sales and marketing. “DAMM will continue to follow the progress in this area and as a manufacturer of TETRA infrastructure, DAMM will rely on manufacturers of TETRA handsets to develop and supply TETRA VHF handsets.”

Valerio Massari, communications manager for Selex, said the company has already done the initial design work to reband its TETRA products to VHF.

“The timeline for implementation depends on the needs of our potential customers. We’re currently discussing the rollout of TETRA in VHF with our customers,” Massari said.

Although Hytera Communications doesn't have immediate plans for VHF TETRA products, Gary Lorenz, vice president of sales and marketing, said the company is reviewing the possibility. "We are currently assessing the markets since each country has different regulations and markets assigned per band," Lorenz said.

One challenge to the new frequency band for TETRA could be Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) equipment, and several vendors said DMR might be the better fit for VHF radio deployments.

“A key issue for TETRA is frequency regulation, and several years ago many countries migrated to operate in 12.5-kilohertz channels,” Selex's Massari said. “This is a constraint for TETRA, which operates using 25-kilohertz technology, but also a great opportunity for us to sell our Digital Mode Radio (DMR) products, which operate on the12.5-kilohertz channel.”

“Many customers using VHF want a simple migration strategy using their existing channels, often 12.5 kilohertz; therefore, we believe that our range of VHF DMR products would probably be more suitable for many users,” said Steve Barber, Sepura head of product strategy. Sepura last week launched its DMR product line. However, if a business case arises, Sepura would consider manufacturing VHF TETRA equipment, Barber said.

“VHF TETRA is very well suited to areas of low population density where the better range means less base sites to cover the service area, so hopefully there will be plenty of professional users out there who want the many functions that TETRA can offer,” Murgatroyd said.

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