What does "TETRA over LTE" mean?

TETRA over LTE? Public safety LTE? What do these things really mean?

Ask an engineer to explain what TETRA over LTE means and they may say something like: “TETRA over LTE is an LTE smart device application and an interface in the TETRA service core to connect from the smart device to TETRA services, using a secured VPN tunnel over LTE data access.”

Errr, what does that mean in everyday terms?

Well, if you use a TETRA radio, adding TETRA over LTE will make it possible for you to talk to your smartphone-carrying colleagues in a group call. Just the same as anyone else. And the colleagues in the control room can manage these users and this communication, too.

Of course it’s a little more complicated than that. Those colleagues will need the special application that allows them to communicate in TETRA groups. The TETRA and LTE networks also have to work together in a certain way.

Public safety LTE?

Another question is whether TETRA over LTE is the same as public safety LTE?

Public safety LTE is a generic term, and includes all kinds of solutions for public safety users. These solutions range from whole radio network solutions to single function applications. TETRA over LTE is a reliable and safe way to start the evolution of PMR networks. One example is Finland's Virve TETRA network, which is adopting a “5 steps to broadband” approach.

(This document "Finland – Hybrid Network in use. Hybrid network covers mobile broadband needs of mission critical users" explains the 5 steps to broadband.)

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Back to the common questions related to TETRA and LTE…

How secure is TETRA over LTE?

To make TETRA over LTE secure, we need to control who gets the application into their smartphones and which groups they can participate in and when.

A single tool is needed that lets you manage all users, both TETRA and smartphone. This will ensure that access to groups is controlled, allowing each user to communicate in the groups they need and removing access once the task is complete. Such a tool exists: several network operators use the Tactilon Suite of solutions for managing just this.

How could we get this into our TETRA network?

There is no point in adopting new apps and services if they need a major revamp of processes and hardware to work. You need a solution which  lets you continue to use your existing equipment and processes. The solutions must also be straightforward to implement.

How could we use this in practice?

You probably co-operate with different organisations, such as the Red Cross, security services, different voluntary organisations and many others. The people in these organisations would not need a TETRA radio but they could still easily communicate with your teams in specific talk groups.

You may also have colleagues who do not carry TETRA radios with them all the time. TETRA over LTE means that when their help and co-operation is needed, they can communicate with you in groups - using the Tactilon Suite TSA app.

So, you and your smartphone-carrying colleagues can communicate and work together. They can also communicate with the control room!

There is more than one way to make TETRA and LTE work together, and I will discuss this in my next blog post in May.

Oh, and if you have questions about LTE, take a look at my earlier blog post "10 LTE facts that are NOT just for nerds"!