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TETRA defends itself against RIM onslaught

While Motorola deploys secret hardware

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TETRA, the radio network used by public services in Europe, has been defending itself against allegations that it lacks the capacity needed by modern police networks.

In the UK, police forces routinely use both TETRA, branded Airwave, and commercial GSM networks for data access, the latter using RIM equipment. TETRA operates on much lower frequencies than GSM, which gives it greater range but at the cost of lower capacity.

Airwave claims to cover 99.9 per cent of the paved roads in the UK, but talk to a few rural coppers and they'll tell you that figure is somewhat optimistic - not to mention that crimes are rarely restricted to paved roads.

RIM claims that commercial GSM networks provide greater coverage, and better speeds. The firm's UK government strategic manager said: "Airwave’s TETRA network will not be able to meet the data needs of police forces in the future, as it does not have the necessary bandwidth."

But operating on a different frequency has its advantages. Commercial radio networks tend to get clogged during emergencies, or indeed traffic jams, while TETRA should continue to work reliably.

Airwave points to various deployments which are regularly sending pictures, in both directions, as proof it's got what it takes. TETRA also has various other features including the ability for a handset to act as a relay, extending the network dynamically, but this makes for more expensive handsets with features that are rarely used.

Certainly, that's proved enough for the Isle of Man, which has committed to deploying Motorola's latest covert TETRA handset, the TCR1000. We asked Motorola for detailed specifications and a picture of the TCR1000, but were told that it's secret and that showing everyone what it looked like would rather defeat the purpose. ®

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