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Digital


to come through commercial systems? Or is there a need for a Private Mobile Broadband network?”


PMR licence fees Next to speak was Kevin Delaney, spectrum policy and planning manager at Ofcom, with a look at the problems and opportunities posed by digital migration. To begin with, he said, PMR was growing: regardless of technology, suppliers were selling it. And digital PMR sys- tems seemed to be taking off especially rapidly. “Currently digital is around 30–40 per cent,


Waiting for Tier III D


deploying analogue radio systems – for example, SSE (Scottish & Southern Energy), which announced a big contract with Team Telecom last month. Adrian Grilli, of JRC, the spectrum


management company for the energy industry, pointed out that Tetra frequencies for private networks are hard to obtain in the UK, and that DMR, the closest alternative, does not yet offer its Tier III trunking option in the market. “What we want is systems that meet our


requirements”, Mr Grilli said. “Ultimately we will migrate to digital – but if I look through the next edition of Land Mobile to see whether I can see any Tier III DMR systems, I suspect I won’t see any Tier III DMR systems. “The suppliers are telling us that the best


date they’ve got so far for a system which can match our existing analogue systems is November 2012 – and then it will be the launch system, it won’t be proven, it won’t have all the applications that we have even got on 1327, let alone all the applications which are on Tetra. “So in looking at migration to digital,


we’ve got to look at when there will be realistic systems out there that we can deploy, in a safety-critical environment, and have confi dence that they will support the applications that we want and will be suffi ciently reliable to meet those requirements.”


Foot-dragging David Taylor, of Analysys Mason, commented that all the suppliers who were promoting Tier III infrastructure also offered analogue 1327 infrastructure. “So it probably suits them to choose when they want to introduce it”, he said. He surmised that any new entrant to


the market bringing Tier III products would accelerate the transition signifi cantly.


34


and that’s a big leap from just one year, when we were told it was like 10–15 per cent”, he said. And he cited a major UK PMR supplier which had told him digital accounted for some 80 per cent of its new sales. “So perhaps the rate at which digital is penetrating into the market is a lot higher and faster than we previously thought it would be”, he commented. But while Ofcom was not yet ready to com-


pel users to switch, manufacturers might yet force the issue by withdrawing technical sup- port for their analogue products. Currently Ofcom supports three bandwidth


espite the advent of digital technologies, users in the public utilities are still


options for PMR technologies – 6¼, 12½ and 25 kHz – which correspond to the main digital specifi cations. However, like David Taylor, Mr Delaney was doubtful that the present licence fees would play any part in propelling users to- wards digital. “I don’t think this works, actually, because we have a minimum fee of £75”, he said. “At the moment we charge you the same whether you use 6¼ or 12½, because it’s all based on administrative incentive pricing. “T e real cost of it, if you are in the Outer


Hebrides with your bit of spectrum, is about £15. But we are trying to cover our costs; there- fore we could start charging double for a 12½ channel, which may drive people down the 6¼ route. “But again, if it’s only £150 and your network


costs thousands, are you still going to care? T e cost of the frequency is nothing compared to the cost of your site rental and your equipment.”


Business opportunities But with no free channels available in some of the busiest areas, one factor Ofcom may have to review is its criteria for shared channel as- signments. “We currently operate a 50 per cent sharing rule for most people”, Mr Delaney said. “T ey’ve asked for a shared assignment, they know they are going to have neighbours. But we are quite cautious in what we actually as- sign. T e Masts algorithm which we use does tend to assume a high ERP on the mobiles. “Based on what we’ve heard from the indus-


try, we are very conservative in the assignment process. If we want spectrum effi ciency, a start- ing point could well be: can we actually cram people in, in urban environments? “In central London, how many people can


you actually get on that frequency? Currently it will be probably be only two. In reality, prob- ably a lot more.” For mobile radio dealers who know their


area, this might represent a real opportunity. Adrian Grilli said: “If you’re a dealer selling a service to a nightclub bouncer, you know that he’s going to be using it in the evenings, so you could sell it to a milk delivery guy. T ose two users are compatible because they are unlikely to be wanting to use the radio at the same time.


But to do that you’ve got to know your user.” However, he added: “T ere’s nothing in the


technology that Ofcom can use that will help them understand that. It’s a great opportunity for dealers, and instead of pestering Ofcom to try and use sophisticated analysis tools, the us- ers have got to realize that this is a business op- portunity.” Kevin Taylor said that similar opportunities


would be off ered by Ofcom’s new leasing rules, which would permit licensees to sub-let under- occupied frequencies.


Meeting key requirements A manufacturer’s view of the digital scene was provided by Jonathan Hamill, regional director at Sepura for the UK and Ireland. As a lead- ing manufacturer of Tetra terminals, he put up a strong case for the Tetra standard: an evolv- ing ETSI specifi cation, the de facto standard for public safety yet available to other market sectors, off ering voice, data and end-to-end en- cryption, established in more than 100 coun- tries and widely supported by the radio industry. “I think Tetra gives you the largest choice


in terms of the number of manufacturers”, he said. “I tried counting them up last night, and I got to 18 and then stopped. If anybody can beat 18, let me know at lunch. So you have got lots of people playing in that open, evolving standard, and that’s important.” How, then, to build a case for migrating


to digital? “Analogue radio systems no longer meet key requirements”, declared Mr Hamill. “T at’s quite a bold statement, and you might disagree with me! “ ‘Analogue radio still does the job!’ But some


people will say actually now it doesn’t – and we want more. Examples of that would be around risk management and mitigation, lone worker safety and security, and off erings such as man- down.” Also important was encryption – not only


for obvious users such as the police, but for us- ers such as airport operators (these do not want plane spotters listening in to incidents and reporting back to the media) and even hotels. “We’ve got a hotel customer on the other side of the world”, he off ered, as an aside. “I can’t tell you where exactly, but they use end-to-end encryption because they have some of the most discerning clients. T ey want a real, secure network so that people don’t hear that Prince Hamill or whoever wants two gin-and-tonics in Room 423. And they actually order those drinks by Tetra, using data, as well.” Short data applications, based on SDS,


the Tetra counterpart of SMS, were another business-friendly feature. T ey made possible a wealth of useful functions, including interac- tive task allocation and management, paging, database query, form-fi lling and much more.


LAND mobile October 2011


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