The TETRA standard has always provided for the transmission of data as well as voice. The use of status messaging and Short Data Service (SDS) provide very efficient methods for quickly sharing information with little impact on voice traffic or IP data. Many SDS applications have been developed specifically to increase operational efficiency. As some organisations and agencies also use mobile data services and applications on public carriers, TETRA is well positioned to offer a complementary or alternative bearer that is far more resilient and secure.
Key to the success of implementing an effective mobile data capability is to start with a realistic expectation of the data speeds, and a willingness to adapt operational procedures to take full advantage of the data. The objectives should be to generate good decisions and outcomes. TETRA data speeds are modest when compared to 3G or LTE/4G but are more than capable of carrying many of the applications vital to public safety and industrial needs. Well engineered applications which minimise the transmitted data and manage the information efficiently at either end have been shown to be very effective over TETRA. These include database look-up, picture messaging, and location-based services.
TETRA data speeds continue to evolve and have long since increased with the provision of Multi-Slot Packet Data (MSPD), providing speeds similar to GPRS. TETRA Enhanced Data Service (TEDS) brings EDGE-like speeds to TETRA. TEDS better manages data traffic in busy TETRA networks and maintains high availability for voice. In addition TEDS enables richer data applications such as video, image and mapping services.
The deployment of public mobile broadband services will stimulate the demand for similar high speed data services from the critical communications user community. However, it is essential that these users continue to benefit from the resilience, functionality and coverage already delivered by TETRA voice networks. TETRA and TEDS deliver low and medium speed data capability that meet these criteria and enable many of the data services through the use of efficient applications. For true mission critical mobile broadband, new technologies will be needed. The TCCA has established the Critical Communications Broadband Group, a Working Group that is dedicated to driving the development of suitable technologies.
Such solutions will roll out over the next few years as spectrum becomes available. However we expect TETRA to remain the primary technology for mission critical and business critical users for many years into the future, because of the challenges in providing true mission critical voice over broadband with the levels of resilience provided by TETRA today.
A wealth of information on applications engineered to run over TETRA is available on the TETRA Applications website. These cover all critical communication sectors.