TETRA mobile communication to drive technology convergence in SA

May 2000 IT infrastructure

South Africa has been identified as a major growth hot spot for TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) technology, taking mobile radio communication firmly into the new millennium as a digital technology, offering integrated mobile voice, data and even Internet services with 'walkie talkie' functionality.

So says Mark Ellis, spokesperson for Motorola CGISS in South Africa. "TETRA is set to become the dominant public access mobile radio technology in this country. This is the digital age. Not only does it provide high quality voice communication, but it enables users - typically public safety services - to relay vital information directly to those who need it at high speed, in a variety of formats including data, voice, video and still images," he said.

"This is definitely the way forward for public safety in South Africa. However, the applications for TETRA are far reaching and we fully expect uptake from a greater number of market entrants, across a broad range of industries. TETRA effectively takes the corporate data network in to the field which is key for any industry that requires workgroup communications. It is an essential business technology," said Ellis.

How it works

Each communication channel is divided into four separate time slots, enabling a number of operations to be carried out, simultaneously, from one terminal. A key feature is bandwidth on demand, which means that if a situation only calls for two-way voice operation, only one time slot will be used. However, if full-motion video images, or voice and data are required, multiple time slots might be used. TETRA will only use as much bandwidth as is necessary for each operation.

This technology also boasts near-perfect security, offering high levels of encryption - security, which is difficult to achieve on traditional mobile radio systems. More good news is that TETRA's network infrastructure can cover large, sparsely populated areas with a minimal number of base stations, or it can cover densely populated areas, with high volumes of traffic, utilising a greater number of base stations.

World-class standards

South Africa has adopted the European standardisation for TETRA, which has been defined by ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), looking at all the technical features and the functionality TETRA should offer. Motorola CGISS, along with other key industry players, was consulted extensively over a seven-year period, in the formulation of this standard, producing a truly superior system. In fact, TETRA is the only European standard for digital mobile radio.

The ETSI standard has also defined TETRA as an open platform, making equipment interoperable from one product house to the next. Effectively, any vendor can access common specifications and manufacture equipment, which will work with another company's infrastructure, provided it has been built to the ETSI standard specifications.

The future

Last year an industry report, from telecommunications market analysts The Strategis Group, estimated that there were 7,5 million analog PMR users in Europe. This figure is expected to grow to 10 million users by 2008, with 90% using digital TETRA. Outside Europe and the US, it is believed that last year's estimated 15 million users will double to 30 million by 2008, with 50% using TETRA systems. These other regions are becoming increasingly important, with projects being set up in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, South America and now South Africa.

"South Africa is on the brink of a market explosion. We're very excited about what TETRA can do for public access and public safety systems here. The convergence of technology and integrated messaging also opens up a whole new market for big business applications," Ellis said.

Traditionally, PMR (professional mobile radio) users had to back up their voice systems with data-only technologies, which is complex and costly. Increasingly they require the transmission of drawings, photographs and even full motion video. TETRA technology facilitates all of that, along with despatcher and telephony services, and for the first time will give users a single unit that is a palmtop computer and cellphone, with walkie talkie functionality.


Ellis said that although the South Africa market is still in its infancy, he believes it will mirror the success currently being enjoyed in Europe within the next few years. "TETRA is definitely where the future lies. We expect the market for infrastructure, terminals and services to explode into a multibillion rand business for South Africa within the next five years."

Motorola CGISS has won contracts in:

* Jersey - Police pilot system.

* United Kingdom - PSRCP UK Nationwide Network - Lancashire Pilot.

* Germany - Public access system.

* Spain - Basque Country and Madrid.

* Oslo - Gardemoen Airport.

* Netherlands - C2000 Public Safety System. p World Police & Fire Games - Stockholm.

* Dolphin infrastructure and handset contract for Germany.

* 150 000 handset contract for Dolphin Plus successful trials in Germany and Hungary.

For details contact Mark Ellis, Director of Sales: Commercial, Government & Industrial Sector, Motorola, on e-mail: mark.ellis@motorola.com or www.mot.com

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