Potomac Spectrum Partners and partners to roll-out a nationwide TETRA network in the US
Potomac Spectrum Partners (PSP)is partnering with TASSTA, PowerTrunk (part of the Sepura Group) and Space Data to develop a nationwide TETRA network in the US for mission-critical voice, data and IoT applications, according to Bruce Scapier, managing member at PSP (pictured right). He told TETRA Today that the partners already have all the spectrum and FCC certifications to roll out the network.
Initial deployments will take place around the US Midwest, with a single state-wide rollout and a deployment in a city with a population in excess of two million people, starting in 4Q16. This strategy was chosen because it strikes a balance between “potential traction and difficulty”. The envisaged user base isn’t restricted to public safety with expected users to include those from other sectors including the oil and gas industry, and trucking.
Scapier adds that PSP has had “discussions at the highest level” with both the Federal government and certain states who are “definitively interested” in some of its capabilities/solutions.
“We’ve taken a very focused approach. A nationwide network can’t be built out overnight and to make sure that we’re building this year, 4Q, we determined it was best to acquire assets that would enable us to begin building,” Scapier says, “Through purchasing these assets, we own the systems or the spectrum necessary so we don’t need further government or quasi-government permissions. We have acquired a substantial number of those opportunities through purchase and we’re holding onto some of the people from these acquisitions because of their knowledge of the specific local markets and legacy SMR and radio networks inside the US…”
“To get started we wanted no path that required approvals beyond what we could get by acquiring assets and then converting them over to this TETRA based network married to both the TASSTA bridge and the ability to enhance coverage, redundancy and resiliency through the Space Data balloon-based technology and provide coverage in areas where terrestrial sites never made financial sense but were still important under any sort of mandate.”
TASSTA’s gateway and app solutions, which allow interworking between smartphone users and those using a range of PMR technologies, will mean that states working with PSP and its partners will not have to ditch what they have and suffer the loss of the political capital that entails, according to Scapier. He says that the partners have a business model that will allow organisations to come on board, without being hampered by budgetary constraints and being able to accommodate legacy equipment, will allow their system to grow quickly. While the exact proportion will vary depending on a customer’s requirements, Scapier envisages a 40:60 split between conventional terminals and smartphones in the latter’s favour and says that the partners are working to make the network as future-proof as possible.
Space Data’s balloons operate at an altitude of 60,000 ft and provide a fully redundant capability and according to Scapier are ideal for providing coverage in remote areas, valleys, canyons and in the aftermath of catastrophic occurrences like Hurricane Katrina. He adds that Space Data already has all the necessary approvals and that they provide a means of delivering full geographical coverage in the US in an economically practical manner.
“One of the reasons why we like working with Space Data is that… they are already approved to fly with this capability if it meets the weight requirements, which it does. They’ve flown with LTE, Integrated Digital Enhanced Network (iDEN), flown everything and we know it can be done without going back to the FCC because we have the approvals as long as it stays within the established weight requirements. They have approval for that.”
The decision to use of TETRA comes from its success in the competitive global mission-critical marketplace, claiming “the lion’s share”, the fact that the TETRA community has done the most planning with regard to migration to LTE and the significant cost-advantage TETRA terminals have over their P25 counterparts.
TETRA Today asked Scapier about the TETRA manufacturers it will be working with.
“If you’re talking about TETRA in the United States, the company that has been the most aggressive and has had the most traction has been PowerTrunk, our partner, and it is supporting our endeavour but of course one of the beauties of TETRA is that there is more than one manufacturer. What’s been able to keep our pricing structure down is that this is a truly competitive technology, but it would be foolish to say that PowerTrunk with its proven ability to know and penetrate this market isn’t a very key component of what we’re trying to do.”
“That said, there are others in the TETRA marketplace that have expressed real interest in being part of what we’re doing – that is the beauty of competition. We work very closely with PowerTrunk. PowerTrunk has been focused on providing us with the pricing we need to make our business model work, and will continue to do so. It understands the US TETRA market better than anyone.
“Here in the states, TETRA handsets are, in some cases, available at just one tenth the price of P25 handsets. We feel that enhancing TETRA with seamless smartphone integration and new levels of coverage will make it a forceful presence in the US mission-critical communications market and the wider telecoms sector,” Scapier concludes.
PSP’s management team and key investors have decades of experience in telecom, including but not limited to spectrum and deployment on both local and nationwide levels. For example, C. James (Jim) Judson (pictured right), a key PSP investor and member participated in some of the largest wireless communications undertakings in the US such as Cellular One and Nextel.