TETRA/LTE Interworking White Paper Offers Options, Standards Updates
Tuesday, September 18, 2018 | Comments

Global critical communications association TCCA released a white paper on TETRA connectivity to Long Term Evolution (LTE).

The report, from the TETRA Industry Group (TIG), provides an overview of the different approaches to enabling TETRA/LTE interworking, with several methods described. The key issue addressed in the white paper is interworking between the LMR/professional mobile radio (PMR) and LTE technology and particularly the interworking and evolution of push-to-talk (PTT) services, as group communications capability is the key service in LMR/PMR.

“TETRA networks are expected to be operational for many years to come; new nationwide public-safety networks are still being deployed and many are receiving mid-life upgrades,” said Francesco Pasquali, TIG chair and TCCA board member sponsored by Leonardo. “In other sectors such as transport and utilities, TETRA remains recognized as the best technology for dedicated mission-critical use, with complementary broadband data integration on many operators’ road maps.”

“TETRA will therefore need connectivity to other bearers, particularly LTE, to facilitate long term co-existence, safe migration from TETRA to LTE or as a hybrid communications solution. It is clear now that such interworking can be achieved and that different approaches can be taken to suit various user scenarios.”

It is expected that there will be a standard available for interworking between TETRA and LTE that will meet the needs of critical communications users in the 2019 timeframe. The standard will then need to be converted to products and implemented in LTE networks. With standards-based approaches, users will benefit from open competitive markets for their solutions and the ability to use products from different suppliers.

For those that need solutions now, a range of company-specific proprietary solutions will give various levels of interworking. These solutions may in time conform to new standards. The deployed commercial LTE systems deliver best-effort service until they are hardened, updated to the latest Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) release and potentially expanded for area coverage.

3GPP has commenced standardization work on the LMR/PMR/LTE interworking functions in Release 15, and TCCA expects to have this functionality specified in Release 16, planned for completion by December 2019.

For interworking with another technology, 3GPP can only standardize half of the solution, and work is therefore in progress in ETSI Technical Committee TETRA and Critical Communications Evolution (TCCE) to standardize the equivalent functionality needed by TETRA to achieve a workable solution. With a significant gap between the release of standards and the availability of the associated functionality in products for operational use, it is not expected that there will be a full range of 3GPP-compliant interworking solutions deployed until 2021/2022.

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