The growing importance of the TETRA standard

Posted: 11 May 2010 | Phil Kidner, CEO, TETRA Association | No comments yet

Today, TETRA is the most widely used open standard in its field, with recent industry figures showing that the technology has been implemented in some 114 countries around the world. TETRA’s major strength is the provision of highly resilient, functionally-rich mission-critical voice and data for public safety, public transportation (including heavy railways, light-rail, metros, trams, buses, seaports and airports), utilities, oil and gas, and a wide variety of other industrial and commercial organisations.

Today, TETRA is the most widely used open standard in its field, with recent industry figures showing that the technology has been implemented in some 114 countries around the world. TETRA's major strength is the provision of highly resilient, functionally-rich mission-critical voice and data for public safety, public transportation (including heavy railways, light-rail, metros, trams, buses, seaports and airports), utilities, oil and gas, and a wide variety of other industrial and commercial organisations.

Today, TETRA is the most widely used open standard in its field, with recent industry figures showing that the technology has been implemented in some 114 countries around the world. TETRA’s major strength is the provision of highly resilient, functionally-rich mission-critical voice and data for public safety, public transportation (including heavy railways, light-rail, metros, trams, buses, seaports and airports), utilities, oil and gas, and a wide variety of other industrial and commercial organisations.

Ensuring the technology is on the right tracks

The global TETRA market has grown expo­nentially year-on-year since the technology’s early successes, mainly in Europe, back in the late 1990s. A large number of equipment manufacturers and specialised solutions providers were attracted by the huge potential of the TETRA market. They created a vibrant ecosystem and made TETRA the de facto radio technology for the many markets that it serves today. TETRA has allowed governments around the world to implement large-scale, national and regional shared public safety systems which provide enormous benefits to their societies.

In fact, although large-scale public safety projects drove TETRA’s early applications development, according to the TETRA Association’s industry statistics the transportation sector is the second largest TETRA market, accounting for almost 25% of all TETRA business worldwide, and has overtaken public safety in terms of the number of networks deployed.

TETRA products and services

The TETRA standard specifies a series of open interfaces – air interface (AI), peripheral equipment interface (PEI), intersystem interface (ISI), direct mode operation (DMO) – which guarantee compatibility and interoperability between network and terminal manufacturers and applications providers. Supported by the TETRA Association, the TETRA standard continues to evolve to suit customer needs. Interoperability between manufacturers is ensured by the TETRA Association’s TETRA Interoperability Profiles (TIPs) and by a comprehensive, independently-verified regime of interoperability (IOP) testing.

TETRA offers a complete, totally secure, resilient, service-rich communications solution for the full range of professional user groups for both private and service provider- based operations. Predominantly IP-based infrastructure, a wide range of fixed units, mobile and hand-held devices (with integrated GPS), radio modems, dispatch facilities, large and smaller-scale control centre functionality and many applications tailored to specific industry segments provide a rich, future-proof PMR communications environment for increasingly demanding, security- conscious customers. It is also easy to integrate TETRA with other existing and emerging IT and communications technologies to create a total communications solution.

Services such as group calling, direct mode operation (DMO), packet data services and TETRA Enhanced Data Service (TEDS) are all integral to the TETRA standard, having been seamlessly designed into the system core.

TETRA technology enjoys a wide support from over 20 manufacturers of core equipment as well as many more suppliers of test equipment, peripheral products, specialised on-board units, applications, software etc., making it the most widely available and future-proof PMR technology.

TETRA system contracts for mass rapid transit, metros and railways across Europe, Asia and Latin America already total around 100. A large number of these networks have been successfully operating for several years providing valuable services and operational efficiencies for customers.

The TETRA standard has inherently fast call set up times of approximately 300 milliseconds, which compare very favourably with all other digital radio communications technologies. These fast call set up times are guaranteed for all types of call including mission critical features, safety features (e.g. emergency calls, ambience listening) and security features (e.g. authentication, encryption, radio disabling) – all of which are also critical for the safe and efficient operations of railways and mass rapid transits.

In addition, status messaging, short data services (SDS), circuit mode data and packet data services are available in TETRA for data and control applications to be implemented to assist in public transport operations. These services have been routinely implemented real- time applications. These applications include passenger emergency alarm/communications, train PA (public address), PIS (passenger information display system), train health monitoring, and many more.

Today, TETRA’s Enhanced Data Service (TEDS) is becoming available, which can provide even higher data transmission rates which will enable ever more sophisticated applications to be implemented.

TETRA Rail Forum

The TETRA Association set up the TETRA Rail Forum in late 2006, recognising the growing importance and unique challenges of this user segment for the industry.

The main objectives of the TETRA Rail Forum are to understand the rail industry’s requirements including signalling; define additional complementary services which might be required by the rail industry as they implement TETRA solutions and define a roadmap for TETRA for Railways.

For further information please contact [email protected].

Migrating to TETRA

The cluster of municipalities within the Nancy region in France – Communauté Urbaine du Grand Nancy (CUGN) – is migrating to TETRA.

This will bring major enhancements to the transport services and passenger support and information system. The new system will improve driver safety in the city’s bus and minibus routes and will ensure real-time data transfer of bus route and passenger information displayed on digital message boards.

Mr. Pierre Letta is Marketing Manager for SYSOCO, the company deploying the infra­structure. Mr. Letta said: “Thanks to the programmable keypads, bus drivers will be able to send a specific alarm message by pressing just one button: this will improve the speed and effectiveness of their response as well as their safety.” He continues: “The Sepura SRG radios will enable the transmission of GPS data from buses to an Automatic Vehicle Location system (AVL), offering real-time information about bus locations, plus statistics for route analysis and optimisation. The radios will also allow direct voice communications between the control room and bus drivers.”

TETRA in the tunnels

With public transport and public safety vehicles equipped with TETRA communications, it is essential to ensure that the radio coverage is unbroken. Critical communications have to be available inside and out.

The new E18 highway between Finnish capital Helsinki and the city of Turku was completed in the spring of 2009. E18’s new tunnels have been equipped with the latest technology safety equipment including radio coverage for a TETRA safety network built by Finnish company Creowave Oy.

A major challenge facing the construction of new tunnels is ensuring that communications inside these closed environments remain open even during emergencies. Inadequate TETRA radio coverage inside a tunnel can result in critical and life-threatening situations.

The E18 project included seven tunnels built along a 51km stretch, including the 2.3km Karnainen tunnel – the longest highway tunnel ever built in Finland.

Approximately 600 people worked on the project over three years and safety requirements for the new tunnels were set high from the start. TETRA coverage for the longest tunnels was provided by Creowave in close co-operation with other radio frequency service suppliers – TETRA coverage enhancement had to be designed in conjunction with the requirements for GSM and FM frequency services.

To achieve the solution, the TETRA signal was amplified with indoor repeaters (230VAC power supply) distributed inside the tunnels using leaky feeders and indoor antennas, depending on the tunnel length and topology. Leaky feeders consist of a coaxial cable with open slots in the shielding of the cable – from these open slots the signal ‘leaks’ out.

The TETRA coverage was built to redundant status i.e. able to withstand a sudden malfunction of a TETRA base station, or repeater. The redundancy in the longest tunnel was achieved by feeding the same tunnel from both ends with separate repeaters. These repeaters were connected to different base stations, so in the tunnel there was coverage from two separate base stations.

TETRA case study: DSB and the S-train commuter rail system

Danish State Railways (DSB) is the largest train operating company both in Denmark, and the whole of Scandinavia. Founded in 1885 following the merger of two government-owned companies to form the Danish State Railways (Danske Statsbaner – ‘DSB’), the company became an independent public corporation in January 1999, and today operates under the auspices of the Danish Ministry of Transport and Energy. DSB employs approximately 9,200 staff, and is responsible for passenger train services over most of Denmark’s railway network, and across international borders. DSB’s remit includes the ‘S-train’ commuter rail system. S-train serves the Danish capital, Copenhagen, and its greater metropolitan areas, carrying some 360,000 passengers each day and forming the heart of the city’s public transportation infrastructure.

Dansk Beredskabs Kommunikation (DBK), a fully-owned Motorola subsidiary that holds two TETRA operating licences in Denmark, is rolling out a nationwide network, known as ‘SINE’, for emergency and public safety agencies across the country. Also licensed for civil applications, DBK had already established a commercial TETRA network in the greater Copenhagen area to serve Movia, the City’s municipal transport authority.

“Our main priority was to deploy a reliable system that could serve all users with private and group calls, whilst ensuring high priority in the event of emergencies. We also needed mobile connectivity to S-train’s servers, databases and the Internet,” said Brian Andersen, Project Manager at DSB.

DSB purchased a fully-managed service from Motorola, comprising more than 500 hand-portables, and nine dispatch consoles. The MTH800 hand-portables feature mobile packet data and WAP (wireless application protocol) browser, enabling database and Internet connectivity, as well as GPS for location-based services. The service is configured for trunk-mode operation only, whilst there is full coverage throughout all of the train sets, buildings and tunnels. The system uses DBK’s network infrastructure and operates as a standalone network under a VPN (virtual private network) configuration.

Unified radio communication ensures efficiency, reliability and security

S-train has five operations rooms equipped with dispatch consoles, plus a central management office located at Copenhagen’s main railway station from which all S-train services and personnel are now coordinated via TETRA. S-train is able to monitor all radio communications, receive and transmit status updates between users, and track their locations via GPS.

Station managers are able to provide accurate information regarding train arrivals and departures, whilst ticket inspectors use the TETRA radio’s WAP browser to query the database of the Danish Social Security Office to verify the identity of passengers when necessary. WAP also allows S-train personnel to log their working hours with the DBS ‘time & attendance’ database. And with GPS data transmitted to dispatchers, S-train is able to deploy personnel more efficiently – and rapidly – when required.

S-train meets targets for improved customer service, products and punctuality

In the first half of 2009, S-train reported a 35% reduction in the number of delays to its commuter services, whilst DSB as a whole, saw productivity improve and customer satisfaction rise to its highest level since 2005. TETRA’s flexibility has contributed significantly to this success. To improve communications, TETRA radios have been deployed on DSB’s inter­national services between Denmark and Sweden, as well as for truck drivers working for DSB’s catering supplier. Additionally, TETRA is used by the temporary ticket offices erected during the annual Roskilde Festival to cope with the huge influx of travellers.

“TETRA provides secure, resilient group communications for transportation companies to help coordinate the efficient turnaround of passengers, baggage and freight. It also helps ensure the safety of both staff and passengers, especially during an emergency,” said Stephen Northcott, Motorola Senior Marketing Manager. He continues: “TETRA radios are rugged and reliable and offer excellent digital audio quality. The user interface can be adapted to ensure easy operation in both buses and trains and they can even be integrated into on-board systems such as driver alarms and equipment status indicators. Indeed, TETRA is being increasingly customised to meet the needs of transportation users. As a result of the many advantages TETRA offers, we are seeing transportation customers increasingly adopt TETRA, not just in EMEA but around the world. These include: Copenhagen Metro; Taiwan High-Speed Rail; Delhi Metro; London Underground; Madrid Metro; Daegu Subway, Korea; Danish State Railways; MOVIA Public Transport, Denmark; SL Public Transport, Stockholm, Sweden; Thuringia Motorways, Germany and Bilbao Muncipality.”

Completing communications on the Underground

The TETRA communications network for the London Underground was completed in January 2009. Airwave, Great Britain’s public safety solutions provider, completed its deployment to all 125 below-ground London Under­ground stations. This now means that British Transport Police (BTP), Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the City of London Police, can all use the same radios underground.

Airwave now provides police communications in London Underground stations across the network, above and below ground, improving safety for the public and the emergency and public safety services. All police officers are able to communicate above and underground allowing them to operate much more effectively during incidents.

The rollout, managed by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) has seen it link its network to London Underground’s Connect digital radio system, part of the Transport for London’s £10 billion investment programme. The rollout is in accordance with the recommendations of the London Assembly’s report into the London bombings of 2005 which stated that improved public safety communications underground was vital for successful emergency response to similar incidents.

In Scotland, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport-Glasgow Subway (SPT-GS) has implemented a new TETRA system to replace its legacy analogue infrastructure. SPT-GS carries more than 13 million passengers a year and is vital to the transport infrastructure of Glasgow. Opened in 1896, the Subway has undergone several modernisations, the last major one was completed in 1979.

The TETRA terminals, supplied by Sepura, are used by operations (railway line and depot supervisors), station and maintenance staff. Mobile terminals have been installed inside the trains; these are mounted in a cradle inside each cab and interface with all the other applications within the cab.

All drivers have also been supplied with a hand-held TETRA radio to be able to communicate with the Control Centre for normal operational requirements or incidents which take them ‘on track’ or ‘out of cab’.

Promoting the standard

Phil Kidner CEO, TETRA Association

The TETRA Association is the front line force that promotes and develops TETRA communication solutions across the world. With TETRA networks already deployed in all regions of the world, with the exception of the US and Canada, as well as serving all traditional Professional Mobile Radio (PMR) markets, the success of TETRA is self-evident.

The TETRA Association provides the central role in the development and enhancement of the TETRA standard. It advises and informs TETRA users and potential users around the world. It promotes the TETRA standard to countries and their governments, and lobbies for appropriate spectrum for future needs.

The TETRA World Congress

Each year, the TETRA Association, in partnership with IIR, holds its flagship event, TETRA World Congress (TWC). From the 25-27 May 2010, the event will be in Singapore. Up to a hundred exhibitors and over 2,000 delegates participate. All information can be found on

Not everyone can get to the World Congress, so the TETRA Association organises other events in various regions of the world – these can be exhibitions, conferences and seminars or workshops designed to address particular topics or issues. All the latest event information can be found on

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