ASTRID: TETRA to Support Belgian Public Safety Until At Least 2025
Wednesday, October 10, 2018 | Comments

Officials with ASTRID, Belgium’s national radio communications network operator for emergency services, said its TETRA network will continue to support public-safety users through at least 2025-2030.

Additionally, the Belgian government and ASTRID are looking at and planning ahead for future communications technologies such as 5G and their impact on emergency communications. As part of this future work, ASTRID entered into agreements with commercial operators.

When Long Term Evolution (LTE), or its future evolutions, replaces TETRA, ASTRID will have two options: develop a new, dedicated network for emergency services or collaborate with commercial operators that already have networks that support LTE technology.

Developing the dedicated network would be highly cost-intensive and therefore, not the most feasible option, ASTRID officials said. However, in working with commercial carriers, ASTRID would need guarantees of at least the same level of service as the country’s emergency services currently enjoy.

ASTRID said that to make emergency use of the commercial networks feasible in the future a large number of agreements with commercial operators had to be entered into as part of the Belgian government’s planned auction of 700 MHz frequencies. Because of the costs of developing a dedicated LTE network, ASTRID did not request any frequencies in the 700 MHz band but instead insisted on the necessary guarantees from commercial operators.

The frequencies will be divided among the commercial networks. Emergency and security services will use the commercial networks in the future, but ASTRID had to secure the necessary agreements and guarantees for them. These guarantees included optimal coverage for emergency services in both densely and sparsely populated areas, priority available at all time and in all locations, and the security and availability necessary for emergency operations.

At ASTRID’s request, Minister for Telecommunications Alexander De Croo and Minister for the Interior Jan Jambon enshrined the guarantees in draft royal decrees with regard to the auction process, as approved by the Belgian Council of Ministers.

The Belgian government also integrated ASTRID into the access network for private mobile operators through a royal decree. For that purpose, safeguards were established with respect to the mandatory network extensions. Emergency and security services will have network coverage in many locations where private operators do not offer coverage for commercial reasons. ASTRID will stringently monitor these safeguards, as well as service continuity guarantees during severe storms or power outages.

ASTRID will also oversee access rights and ensure the security of emergency communications using additional systems, such as an additional network and dedicated backbone network. The operator will also check to ensure that priority access is maintained in the event of network overload.

ASTRID said emergency services users should not be concerned by the agreements or worry about their communications service.

“We have ensured that existing communication services for the public-safety services will continue well into the future, with a quality of service that is at least equal to and, ideally, better than what they enjoy today,” the ASTRID officials said. “The timing should not be of any concern either. The transition from TETRA to LTE is not imminent; it is estimated that the replacement of the technology will only begin by 2025-2030. In all likelihood, the technology will be phased in gradually, with TETRA continuing to operate alongside LTE.”

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