Setting the standard

Posted: 7 June 2007 | Marcello Pagnozzi, ETSI Technical Officer for TETRA | No comments yet

ETSI is an independent, non-profit organisation whose mission is to produce telecommunications standards for today and the future. This article looks at ETSI’s work and interviews Marcello Pagnozzi, ETSI Technical Officer for TETRA, to find out more about ETSI’s work in developing TETRA standards.

ETSI is an independent, non-profit organisation whose mission is to produce telecommunications standards for today and the future. This article looks at ETSI’s work and interviews Marcello Pagnozzi, ETSI Technical Officer for TETRA, to find out more about ETSI’s work in developing TETRA standards.

Based in Sophia Antipolis, France, ETSI, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, has official recognition for the standardisation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) within Europe.

These technologies include telecommunications, broadcasting and related areas such as intelligent transportation and medical electronics.

ETSI unites 655 members from 59 countries inside and outside Europe, including manufacturers, network operators, administrations, service providers, research bodies and users – in fact, all the key players in the ICT arena.

The outcome of this cooperation has been a stream of successful standards in areas such as GSM, 3G, Fixed Mobile Convergence, ISDN, xDSL, DVB & DAB, TETRA, DECT, Power-line telecoms, and many more.

ETSI plays a major role in developing a wide range of standards and other technical documentation as Europe’s contribution to world-wide ICT standardisation. It also specialises in interoperability testing services and other standards-related services.

ETSI’s prime objective is to support global harmonisation by providing a forum in which all the key players can actively contribute. ETSI is also officially recognised by the European Commission and the EFTA secretariat.

ETSI’s activities are closely aligned with market needs and there is wide acceptance of its products due to ETSI’s standards being built on consensus and the fact that ETSI Members determine its work programme, allocate resources and approve its deliverables.

In recent years, ETSI has expanded its focus to include two complimentary areas by creating ‘ETSI Plugtests’ – the interoperability service and ‘Forapolis’ its Fora-hosting arm. These services enable the ICT industry to easily locate the right ETSI partner for them in these increasingly important standardisation ‘surround’ areas.

Standardisation in a changing world

The modern ‘Information Society’ in which we live offers huge potential to enrich everyone’s lives. We can communicate with the other side of the world almost as easily as we speak to our next-door neighbour. Our children take for granted what their PC or mobile phone will do. New technology is affecting our work, our rest and our play.

But with new opportunities come challenges. Technology makes things quicker, easier, better. But it is also more complex.

Achieving the ‘Information Society’ involves practical action by a wide range of players; data exchange around the world, using different platforms, with different practices, different languages and character sets, requires a neutral tool for all parties to communicate and standardisation carves such a path through this complexity.

The benefits of standardisation


  • opens up new markets
  • expands existing markets
  • lowers costs
  • facilitates competition
  • enables interoperability
  • encourages innovation
  • fosters enterprise
  • builds trust and confidence in products
  • prevents effort duplication

Standardisation is an essential requirement for the open exchange of information; without it, the network simply would not work.

Two major elements are required to ensure standardisation accelerates progress:

  • standards must be produced at a rate consistent with market demand
  • standards must consider all interested parties to be widely acceptable


Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) is the modern digital Private Mobile Radio (PMR) and Public Access Mobile Radio (PAMR) technology for police, ambulance and fire services, security services, utilities, military, public access, fleet management, transport services, closed user groups, factory site services, mining, etc.

With the support of the European Commission and ETSI’s Members, the TETRA standard has been developed over a number of years by the cooperation of manufacturers, users, operators and other experts, with emphasis on ensuring that the standard will support the needs of emergency services throughout Europe and beyond. The standard builds upon the lessons and techniques of previous analogue Trunked Radio Systems and the successful development of GSM during the 1980s. The work started in 1990 and the first standards were ready in 1995.

TETRA offers fast call set-up time, addressing the critical needs of many user segments, excellent group communication support, direct mode operation between radios, packet data and circuit data transfer services, frequency economy and excellent security features. TETRA uses Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) technology with 4 user channels on one radio carrier and 25 kHz spacing between carriers. This makes it inherently efficient in the way that it uses the frequency spectrum.

For emergency systems in Europe the frequency bands 380-383 MHz and 390-393 MHz have been allocated for use by a single harmonised digital land mobile systems by the ERC Decision (96)01. Additionally, whole or appropriate parts of the bands 383-385 MHz and 393-395 MHz can be utilised should the bandwidth be required.

For civil systems in Europe the frequency bands 410-430 MHz, 870-876 MHz / 915-921 MHz, 450-470 MHz, 385-390 MHz / 395-399,9 MHz, have been allocated for TETRA by the ERC Decision (96)04.

TETRA trunking facility provides a pooling of all radio channels which are then allocated on demand to individual users, in both voice and data modes. By the provision of national and multi-national networks, national and international roaming can be supported, the user being in constant seamless communications with his colleagues.

TETRA supports point-to-point and point-to-multipoint communications both by the use of the TETRA infrastructure and by the use of Direct Mode without infrastructure.

TETRA is an open multi-vendor standard.

The ETSI TETRA Project has over 150 representatives involved in various technical working groups, with support from the TETRA MoU association providing further expertise in specialist areas.

We spoke to Marcello Pagnozzi, Technical Officer for TETRA at ETSI, to find out more about how ETSI sets TETRA standards.

What stage was ETSI at in developing TETRA standards when you joined them as Technical Officer?

When I joined ETSI there still remained a few TETRA documents to be published for Release 1, most of the Release 2 standards to be written, whilst maintenance of the first version also had to be continued.

Many documents are published in developing an ETSI standard. With regards to TETRA, over 300 documents have been published so far.

What are the advantages of setting standards for TETRA technology?

Generally speaking, the advantage of several companies cooperating to create a standard for a given technology is that this will ultimately result in developing a larger market for them as compared to a single company developing its own proprietary technology.

When companies arrive at consensus regarding certain technological choices there will also be a greater choice of products/services on the market. Competition results in lower prices for the end user and so the technology becomes more popular. Manufacturers often welcome these lower prices, they enjoy a share of a larger market.

Where have the TETRA standards been adopted?

TETRA standards have now been adopted all over the world and in every continent there are systems employing the standard. The TETRA MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) website has more information on this.

The TETRA MoU, now known as the TETRA Association, was established in December 1994 to create a forum which could act on behalf of all interested parties, representing users, manufacturers, application providers, integrators, operators, test houses and telecom agencies.

ETSI is a partner with the TETRA Association – and as such has all the information about numbers of companies using TETRA. As a standards body though, ETSI does not formally collect this information. However, I can tell you that in Europe, an increasing number of companies are choosing TETRA digital public safety and telecommunication systems. The TETRA market is also growing fast in Asia and Latin America.

How can TETRA help the aviation industry?

Aside from the economical advantages of having a wider range of different TETRA products and suppliers to choose from, users can also benefit from the functionality of the technology. For example, when compared to an analogue radio signal, TETRA provides far superior sound quality.

There have been experiments comparing TETRA and analogue voice communication systems with a helicopter in the background. The experiment found it was difficult to communicate via the analogue system – while TETRA enabled clear communication. Of course this is an extreme example, but it does give you an idea of the advantages of TETRA.

There is also group communication functionality which is particularly useful for fleets of vehicles – enabling operators to effectively coordinate their fleets with just one call and TETRA also offers location protocol. This built-in function enables GPS systems to accurately pinpoint the location of vehicles – offering fleet location and RTPI possibilities.

How did ETSI go about setting the TETRA standards?

ETSI is officially recognised as a standards organisation by the European Commission and so it was natural for companies working in the TETRA field to turn to us when they wanted to produce a standard for these kinds of applications.

One of the first things we did was to create Working Group One, which consisted of TETRA users. We asked them to set a number of requirements – outlining their priorities with regards to their operational needs and to state what they would like to have from a new digital standard for their daily work.

As well as this, we set up various technical groups looking at different aspects of TETRA. These only started work when documents from Working Group One had been established – as this gave them direction in developing the technical features to meet requirements.

From there the working groups started producing technical standards. The procedure by which this worked involved each company in a working group proposing a technical solution on a specific feature. The solution would then be discussed by the whole group. The final solution chosen by the group would then become a TETRA standard.

How long does this process take from start to finish?

Working Group One is still active and deciding which features they would like to be improved or added, so it is an on-going task. To give you some perspective, the first document published which outlined TETRA user’s requirements was in 1990, while the first actual TETRA standards were published in 1995.

Are the standards set or is there room for them to develop as the technology develops and new applications are found?

The standards are always evolving and do not end when documents are published. The TETRA World Congress takes place in Madrid, 11–14 June 2007. This is the main event for TETRA in the world and there will be many discussions about improving and developing the standard.

As our end users work with TETRA technology in the field everyday, they have become so well-acquainted with the technology and its features that they are in an ever-improving position to be able to decide the future path of TETRA.

How do you work with the TETRA Association?

We have an excellent relationship with the TETRA Association.

We collaborate closely on all TETRA related activities at both board and technical working group level to ensure that our work is coordinated.

At ETSI we contribute regularly to the TETRA Association board, explaining our latest developments. In return, they also keep us informed of their activities. As an organisation, the TETRA Association is more suited to carrying out certification work than we are as a standards body.

One example of our collaboration is in the field of algorithms.

Typically, TETRA can be used to communicate sensitive information – and so secure algorithms are needed to ensure that data is protected from any potential attack. Technical teams at ETSI and the TETRA Association work together on this, as well as many other issues.

We also collaborate promotionally. For example, we jointly organised a workshop/seminar to promote TETRA standards in Mexico.

Do you work with TETRA systems suppliers?

ETSI does more than just work with TETRA suppliers. Our work is in part formed by the suppliers of TETRA products and services.

Are there any recent developments for TETRA technology?

Yes, the most recent development is called TEDS. This stands for TETRA Enhanced Data Service. TEDS is a new TETRA High Speed Data (HSD) service using different RF channel bandwidths and data rates for flexible use of PMR frequency bands. TEDS is fully compatibility with TETRA Release 1 and allows for ease of migration. It has been optimised for efficient use of PMR frequency bands and designed for all TETRA market segment applications. Essentially, this means that TETRA can now be used for the transfer of high speed data. Applications can include anything that requires a higher data rate – so it would be up to the application provider to decide exactly what these applications could be.

TEDS is an important part of the Release 2 standards for TETRA and we are currently awaiting final approval before the TEDS document can be published as a ‘European norm’.

What is the future for TETRA?

TEDS will have a big impact on the future of the technology. Now that the standard is about to be published, companies will jump on it and really start to develop products for the market using Release 2 technology.

In terms of new developments on the standards side, we will see developments take place at the TETRA World Congress, which will help enforce TETRA’s position as being a secure technology for future applications.

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