Jose Martin, CEO of TETRA supplier PowerTrunk, discusses some how transit agencies are looking to overcome spectrum challenges in the United States and provides an overview of the companies recent telecommunications projects in New Jersey and Los Angeles.
PowerTrunk operates nationwide in the U.S. and also in Canada from its HQ in Jersey City, NJ. PowerTrunk’s core business is design and manufacture of land mobile radio equipment at its parent company, Teltronic SAU. In addition, PowerTrunk conducts network design, project management and customer service levels 2 and 3.
Why do you believe TETRA has been adopted by these operators and what advantages can a TETRA system provide?
TETRA is the dominant LMR standard in the world for public safety, transit, utilities and other industries that require mission-critical voice and data. However, it’s not been available in North America until 2010 as it could not get through type acceptance due to a number of regulatory issues PowerTrunk managed to overcome this by way of a slight modification of TETRA’s RF spectrum.
Later Canada changed its emission rules to accept non-modified TETRA in all frequency bands. In turn, the FCC changed part of its rules in 2012 to accept the technology in certain frequency bands: 450-470 MHz and 809-824/854-869 MHz.
TETRA provides significant advantages compared with other previously available LMR technologies in North America such as cellular-like speech quality, effective background noise cancellation, handover, native air interface encryption, authentication, status and short data service, IP packet data up to 19200 bps, circuit data up to 28800 bps, dynamic group numbering and many other supplementary services.
TETRA subscribers feature built-in GPS which allows advanced fleet management thanks to its powerful short data service. In turn, TETRA is spectrum-efficient as it offers four voice/data channels on 25 KHz-wide frequencies, so it is 6.25 kHz-equivalent. For these reasons TETRA has been installed in over 127 countries until now.
BC Hydro chose TETRA for its excellent speech quality, spectrum efficiency and performance/price ratio. TETRA services have been integrated into BC Hydro’s PABX and operational control center in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. The network will be expanded to other regions in the near future. In addition, TETRA data services are being considered to support certain SCADA applications. Regarding NJ Transit, it preferred TETRA because it’s the only mission-critical-capable LMR technology which allows carrying large amounts of data.
NJ Transit’s network’s primary purpose is supporting an advanced Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system for over 4,000 buses and 200 light rail trains which serve the State of New Jersey and some spots in Manhattan such as Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal among others. NJ Transit’s data-centric application involves updating all the vehicles’ position every 30 seconds or less.
In turn, ARINC chose TETRA to replace its ageing iDEN system at LAX Airport for the same reasons BC Hydro did. TETRA provides the same or superior coverage as well as a better speech quality. TETRA’s background noise cancellation was challenged by ARINC in trials at LAX and it turned out to exceed its expectations in such a critical outdoor environment in the vicinity of live aircraft engines.
How do the U.S transit agencies differ from their international counterparts, and what impact does that have on technology suppliers looking to do business in the country?
U.S. transit agencies do not differ from their counterparts in other countries. The only difference is that TETRA was not available to them until now. Therefore, it is expectable that TETRA will play a significant role in the U.S. market the same way it does in the rest of the world.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced introducing TETRA in New Jersey, the largest transit agency in the US, and how has your approach differed from that used for the system at Los Angeles International Airport?
The main challenge was Harris’s protest before NJ Transit and the FCC for PowerTrunk’s TETRA implementation’s alleged non-compliance with the emission rules in force. Harris was the losing party of NJ Transit’s RFP. As explained above, PowerTrunk’s TETRA-interoperable D-LMR technology (TI D-LMR) works like TETRA and simultaneously complies with the previously existing FCC rules. Once Harris’s technical arguments were dismissed by both NJ Transit and the FCC, PowerTrunk was awarded the contract in March 2012 with TI D-LMR technology.
In early 2013 the network was upgraded to the TETRA standard after the FCC’s September 2012 Report and Order which modified Part 90 of the FCC rules in the 800 MHz band. All the information about this dispute is publicly available at the FCC public docket 11-69.
Regarding LAX, there were no challenges as the said regulatory change was already in force by the time the agreement was entered into by ARINC and PowerTrunk.