Minnesota Utility Asks FCC to Allow TETRA in U.S. (7/9/10)
Friday, July 09, 2010 | Comments

A utility based in Minnesota has asked the FCC to grant a pending waiver request to allow TETRA technology to be available in the United States. Great River Energy (GRE), a cooperative that provides wholesale electricity to more than 1.7 million people in Minnesota and Wisconsin, said TETRA should be one of the 6.25-kilohertz technology options available to U.S. licensees forced to narrowband VHF and UHF networks.

The TETRA Association, the global marketing association for the European-based digital radio standard, last year filed a request for waiver of Sections 90.209, 90.210 and 2.1043 of FCC rules to allow TETRA technology to be used in the United States. The FCC put the request out for comment, and most groups that submitted comments said the issue should be handled through a full rulemaking proceeding, rather than a blanket waiver. In May, TETRA Association representatives met with FCC officials to provide more technical and user information to the U.S. telecom regulator.

In a letter to the FCC, GRE Senior Telecommunications Engineer Kathleen Nelson said the utility uses a proprietary, narrowband (12.5 kilohertz) analog trunked mobile radio system shared among GRE and 14 of the member distribution cooperatives GRE serves. “The subscriber radios we purchase cost four to five times the cost of TETRA subscriber radios and have fewer features,” Nelson said. “While there are more open standards being developed that may be available in the U.S. in the future, it does not make sense for the most widely used worldwide mobile radio standard to not be allowed in the U.S.”

The Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) formed a working group in June 2009 to address technical issues related to TETRA’s use in the U.S. market. A Canadian utility, BC Hydro, last year conducted a pilot of TETRA technology. The utility recently released a request for proposals (RFP) for a new digital radio system. Allegheny Power, a utility serving customers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland, recently deployed a Project 25 (P25) network.

“As the FCC moves toward even more spectrum efficient technologies, TETRA, at 6.25-kilohertz channel equivalency, should be one of the options that businesses should be able to consider as they deploy new mobile radio systems,” the GRE letter said. “By keeping TETRA from being a technology option in the U.S., utilities and other businesses continue to be forced to purchase high-priced proprietary systems or substandard open systems with far fewer manufacturer options than there are available with TETRA. Great River Energy would welcome the opportunity to have TETRA products available in the United States.”

GRE’s member cooperatives range from those in the outer-ring suburbs of the Twin Cities to the Arrowhead region of Minnesota to the farmland of southwestern Minnesota.

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