TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio)

TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) is a set of standards developed by the European Telecommunications Standardisation Institute (ETSI) that describes a common mobile radio communications infrastructure throughout Europe. This infrastructure is targeted primarily at the mobile radio needs of public safety groups (such as police and fire departments), utility companies, and other enterprises that provide voice and data communications services.

All of these groups have been high-end users of private/professional mobile radio (PMR) or public access mobile radio (PAMR) technology. This is especially true in the areas of law enforcement and public safety, where fast and accurate field communications to and from a central office or dispatcher are often critical. TETRA is a standard solution for groups that use both PMR and PAMR.

In recent years, when European disasters have struck, emergency response teams from several European nations had a difficult time communicating with each other, due in part to the lack of standardization in their mobile radio equipment. The TETRA standards evolved to answer this communication challenge as well as others faced or anticipated by the European Commission (EC) in its efforts to unify European countries.

Based on digital, trunked radio technology, TETRA is believed to be the next-generation architecture and standard for current, analog PMR and PAMR markets. TETRA actually takes its features from several different technological areas:? mobile radio, digital cellular telephone, paging, and wireless data.

TETRA relies on digital trunking. TETRA-based products come with built-in encryption features to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of sensitive data/voice communications. These products are also designed with the ability to transfer data at faster rates than seen before in mobile communications.

TETRA, which originally stood for Trans-European Trunked Radio, was renamed Terrestrial Trunked Radio after ETSI found widespread interest in the TETRA standards beyond Europe's geographic borders. ETSI has had a successful history of developing communications standards that later become accepted industry-wide, such as the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMC) standard.

The TETRA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was created in December 1994 as a forum to represent the needs of various members of the mobile communications industry (including product manufacturers, telecommunications agencies, end users of mobile devices). Ole M. Lauridsen, chairman of the TETRA MoU, anticipates that the introduction of TETRA across Europe will not only standardize and improve mobile radio communications for current PMR/PAMR users, but it will also significantly decrease the cost of equipment and terminals by as much as 30-40% over analog equipment currently on the market.

Efforts are currently underway to introduce TETRA standards in other parts of the world, including Denmark, China and the United States. (In the United States, another standard called APCO 25 is currently in use by public safety agencies. TETRA standards are currently being considered along with other standards for inclusion in a later phase of the APCO 25 Project.)

Field tests and trials of TETRA are still on-going by ETSI and its host of manufacturers and testers. The UK's Dolphin Telecommunications has reported that it plans to release its own ExpressNet by the summer of 2000. ExpressNet is purported to be the first commercial development of a TETRA-based system in Europe, which integrates both data and voice mobile communications into a single network. It is planned for initial deployment throughout the UK, France, and Germany.

This was last updated in April 2005

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