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Guest View: Adding digital crime fighting strength

Bharat Bhatia | May 27, 2013
Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) has grown into a very sophisticated, scalable, digital mission critical communication backbone for public safety users, government agencies and large enterprise users.

Today, it is hard to have a conversation without being interrupted by a call, a social media message or an urgent email on our smartphone. It is the age of hyperconnections, something that Thomas L Friedman talked about in his famous book 'The World is Flat' in 2004. Later in an article written for the New York Times, he went on to share that "When I wrote that book, Facebook, Twitter, cloud computing, LinkedIn, 4G wireless, ultra-high-speed bandwidth, big data, Skype, system-on-a-chip (SOC) circuits, iPhones, iPods, iPads and cellphone apps didn't exist, or were in their infancy."  Such has been the blistering pace of change in the world.

Over the last decade, the world transformed. The dense and complex interconnections between people from beyond political and geographical divides are enabling exchange of information in ways unimagined. International Telecom Union (ITU's) 2013 ICT facts and figures[1], peg the number of mobile-cellular subscriptions at the same level as the number of people in the world, and more than half of it are in the Asia-Pacific region (3.5 billion out of 6.8 billion total subscriptions). A significant proportion of them are Gen Y and many of them are smartphone users. 

While our personal world went into the hyper mode, with the ubiquitous Internet delivered to us anywhere, anytime over high speed wireless networks, a critical part of our world has struggled to gain access to digital technology and its benefits. 

It is the world of Public Safety that has faced the steepest challenge of finding support for technology up gradation. Many among us assume that the government agencies have access to the latest in digital technologies, especially the public safety agencies who deal with the growing perils of keeping cities safe from criminals and terrorists. The reality is far from that. Public safety world is the one determined by governmental priorities and long drawn deliberations about whether the funds be used for social works, housing projects or to equip the police officers with the latest in connectivity technologies. The outcome is quite easy to predict.

Despite the dichotomy, governments and public safety agencies today have a choice of technologies available to them, and there is increasing realisation among those in the region, to move to digital communication standards such as TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) or APCO P25 (Association of Public Safety Communications Officials), for public safety agency use.

This article focuses on TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio). It highlights the differences; distinctive strength and sophistication of digital mission-critical technologies compared to public cellular networks as well as the earlier generation analogue technology-based private radio networks.

Established by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), TETRA has been experiencing steady growth across Asia Pacific and Europe for over a decade now. It has emerged as the de-facto standard in many countries. Continuous commitment and steady investments in the development and research to drive innovations by industry players have grown TETRA into a very sophisticated, scalable, digital mission critical communication backbone for public safety users, government agencies and large enterprise users.


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