European public safety and mobile communication

European public safety and mobile communication

Within the Public Safety organisations in Europe, mobile communication is a hot item these days. In many countries old equipment must be renewed in the coming years. The change from conventional analogue to intelligent digital radionetworks is a big one, as both concerning technical complexity, financial and specially for the users. All this national developments are heavily influenced by the activities to have a standard solution for mobile communication within the European Public Safety community. This for reasons of interoperability for cross border communication, a multivendor situation and future proof technology. Within the Schengen treaty even a special paragraph handles over mobile communication, where is mentioned a short and a long term solution. The short term solution contains realisation of crossborder (mobile) communication for crossborder pursuit and observation. In most countries this is realised by using conventional equipment on frequencies of the police organisations on both sites of the border.

The long term solution includes structural solutions by means of a harmonised frequency band and common technology. These developments have great influence on the Dutch C2000 project. This project provides police, fire department and ambulance services with a nation wide radio infrastructure with handportable coverage. If everything goes according the plans the realisation of the national system will start at the end of 1998, and must be finished in approximately 2002. C2000 has the usual functional requirements such as priority calls, group calls, mobile datacommunication, trunking etc. Flexibility and safety (== digital technology) are the most essential. A multivendor situation is very important and so an open standard is essential. Therefore Tetra is the first option.

The preparations for a technical pilot (which will be realised in May 1997) are started yet. The pilot is called Tetra-test and is intended to get experience with the technical aspects of Tetra. Tele Danmark is the main contractor and offers besides the hardware (which is a 3 site infrastructure with terminals from different manufacturers) consultancy. Also computer simulations are part of this Tetra-test project and for this activity there is a co-operationship between Tele Danmark and the Dutch university of Twente.


An important milestone has been reached in 1995. Everyone who knows something about this specific topic knows about the limited number of frequencies, especially when they have to be harmonised over many countries. For all public safety organisations in Europe a special exclusive frequency band in the 380 – 400 MHz band is now available. This success has never been reached before and probably will be only a one time success. This new frequency band offers many advantages. International public safety organisations can work together on the samefrequency through which co-operation will be possible. Co-ordination of frequencies will also be easier.

At the moment the Dutch police can suffer interference from a Belgium taxi company or a German electricity company. Making agreements with them is harder than making agreements with the police in neighbouring countries, because structural agreements can be made in the future within the police community.

National police, fire department and ambulance services can create a basis for good co-operation because of this common frequency band. Combined with a technical solution (see below) co-ordination problems at the time of a calamity can be better managed. Migration to new technology can be easier because current networks can still use current frequencies until the new network is completely operational. Building a new network using the current frequencies is like building a new house on the old foundation while you still live in the old house. Fortunately a process this complicated can be avoided.

So it is an enormous success, that will give a big impulse for good mobile communication for public safety organisations not only in the Netherlands but in most European countries. European standard To reach really good cross border communication and a multivendor situation, it is essential to have an open European standard. Because the mobile telephony standard GSM does not fulfil essential functionality’s for PMR, the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) has decided to develop the Tetra standard for professional users such as public safety organisations, electricity companies, airports etc. Tetra is a digital trunking standard for, mobile speech and data communication. Tetra has standard solutions for security, group calls, open channel (continuous communication for a large number ofusers at the time of a calamity), priority calls, Direct Mode (handportable – handportable communication not using the infrastructure), dispatcher room functionalities (such as managing group calls, add priorities, control & command major incidents) etc.

In short everything the public safety organisations need, that cannot be offered by GSM because of its “telephony background” (GSM is fine for mobile telephony, with a call set up time of a few seconds between 2 users, but not for accomplishing a connection between 20 cars in half a second). Also for public safety the very important direct mode can not be realised with GSM.

Tetra offers the most advanced technology in an open standard which will create a multivendor situation (with more suppliers). It will be clear that from the financial and continuity point of view this is a better situation then a situation in which a hole country depends on 1 manufacturer during the lifecycle of the system. Other standards (for example APCO 25) would also be possible but only Tetra 25 is a real European open standard which has strong support of the suppliers.

In 1996 the Tetra standard has made great progress and all the essential issues for Public Safety will be finished in 1997.

ETSI working groups, which have developed the standard, are working on the details. Besides the well known telecommunications companies, operators and governments participate also. The Dutch police participates in a number of subcommittees to secure the specific needs of public safety. Other users also participate, for example Home Office on behalf of the UK police.

Tetra MoU
A big success is the MoU for Tetra. Almost all well known suppliers have signed this MoU. Further a number of operators, testing houses and users have signed the MoU. The public safety organisations (UK and the Netherlands) also participate in this MoU. The MoU is an enormous impulse for Tetra also because the MoU suppliers have declared their intention to put their energy in the development of Tetra and not support other competitive developments. Several activities to promote Tetra, such as PR, agreements on pilots, validation tests, are developed under the MoU forum.

The MoU with a large number of participants shows that Tetra is not just a European standard on paper, but a real standard which will be used and produced.

Schengen/Police Co-operation
As well as in the Schengen Telecom meeting, in which all the EU countries except UK and Ireland participate, as in the meeting of Police Co-operation of the EU, establishment of a common standard for mobile communication is a very important item. Referring to the developments of Tetra as mentioned above, it is clear that this is an appropriate standard. Also it is clear that all countries prefer an open standard above a suppliers solution, due to the multi-vendor situation.

In June 1995 Schengen has made functional specifications and send them to ETSI. ETSI studied this specifications and made a detailed report in which all wishes are compared to the Tetra standard. In January 1996 the Director of ETSI answered to Schengen that Tetra fulfils the wishes for almost 100%. Based on this advice Schengen Telecom advises to take Tetra as the starting point. Germany has proposed to test the Tetra system in co-operation with Belgium and the Netherlands, through a pilot in the border area of the Aachen area.

Situation April 1997
All this above mentioned has resulted in an official statement in as both Schengen and Police Co-operation that the long term solution for European Public Safety has to be an open European standard. Further is stated that Tetra is the only possibility at this moment and that the Schengen three country Tetra pilot in the area of Aachen, Maastricht and Lige has to prove that Tetra in practice meets the functional requirements. The Tetrapol system will only be taken into consideration when it will be accepted by ETSI as an official open standard (ETSI norm).

Activities in the coming period
Of course the biggest activity is the Schengen three country Tetra pilot. Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands have made a project proposal (including the Berlin pilot). The Schengen Telecom chairman has sent a letter to the EU to ask for financial support. Different companies have given presentations with proposals for implementing this pilot. Concrete details of the pilot are worked out at the moment.

Another activity is the Man Machine Interface (MMI). Schengen has produced a MMI document which is sent to the different companies to ask for comments. In the Tetra MoU it is agreed to give a reaction from their point of view also. The multivendor Tetra test project in The Netherlands together with Tele Danmark and the University of Twente is already mentioned above. The results are open to the other MoU members and will be used as input for the three country pilot.

Home Office UK has started a large project, which has the goal to build a national infrastructure based on Tetra 25 and the harmonised frequencyband, in 1998. In Finland is a concrete project which is based on Tetra also. Belgium has also plans to start with an European standard as first choice in 1998.In Portugal and Austria projects are in the starting phase. In Germany is (besides the Aachen trial) a project planned in Berlin. In The Netherlands the C2000 project is in the purchase phase and selection of the winning company is expected in the second half of 1997.

There is an intensive co-operation between some countries, so experiences can be exchanged and double work can be avoided. Conclusion is that mobile communication with Tetra 25 and the 380-400 MHz band for public safety has perfect expectations for the future.

Lezing IBC dd 9/10 april 1997, 1
Hans Borgonjen
Police Telecommunications Office