Airwaves PDA threatened

The developers of TETRA, Motorola have claimed that their new PDA – the MTC100 that will give officers the ability to access data at the roadside – is under threat due to a lack of bandwidth that is essential for the efficient operation of the new hand-held device.

Dec 14, 2006
By David Howell
South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Lauren Poultney with Chief Inspector Jayne Forrest and OK9 Wellbeing dog Buddy with their Leadership award.

The developers of TETRA, Motorola have claimed that their new PDA – the MTC100 that will give officers the ability to access data at the roadside – is under threat due to a lack of bandwidth that is essential for the efficient operation of the new hand-held device.

The PDA can be used for low-level data access, but to realise the PDA’s full potential it would require much more bandwidth than is currently available to the TETRA system.

Last month marked the tenth anniversary of the TETRA system. The communications foundation for every force across the UK will soon become the basis for the ambulance service voice and data communications.

To give the TETRA network more data capabilities TETRA 2, which has yet to be ratified would give the system up to 150Kbps. According to PITO’s mobile data project manager Gary Cairns, the new system would require more bandwidth, which would be a “key enabler” to realise the system’s full potential of TETRA 2.

For TETRA 2 to become a reality there are two possible bandwidths that the system could use. The 410-430MHz range, which is being considered by emergency services across Europe, but that in the UK, has been partially auctioned off by Ofcom to commercial interests.

Mr Cairns told ZDNet UK that this would force the emergency services to “demonstrate a business case in monetary terms as well as the benefits to the public”, although a spokesperson for Ofcom said that further auctions of this section of bandwidth were not planned.

The second possible spectrum of bandwidth that could be used is in the 1.5MHz range that is already aligned with the TETRA system.

This bandwidth was donated by NATO in 1996. Because of its close proximity to the existing band, the range would enable the emergency services to use their existing TETRA infrastructure for TETRA 2. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) already use this area of the radio spectrum for their radio communications and according to Motorola’s director of international business relations and TETRA Association vice chairman Jeppe Jepsen, they are refusing to share it.

Mr Jepsen said: “TETRA 2 is having a bleak future in the UK simply because spectrum is not available to do this.”

The progress of TETRA 2, which would see a huge development of hand-held data devices that could benefit every officer across the UK, will hinge on the successful negotiation of more bandwidth.

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