CCMENA 2018: Exploring The State of Hybrid TETRA and LTE Devices

Part 2 in a series of reflections in the lead-up to Critical Communications Middle East and North Africa 2018

Some of the most intriguing equipment on display this year at Critical Communications Middle East and North Africa (CCMENA) are the hybrid personal devices supporting multiple radio technologies. In many respects, these devices are an essential transitional path to the future. Support for TETRA provides a trusted voice solution and a proven short message capability. Yet, an expanding set of LTE-enabled applications helps deliver radical new functionality with the swipe of a finger. With CCMENA hosted in a region rapidly pushing the frontiers of technology, the conference offers an ideal forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences from agencies exploring the future of hybrid devices.

As a foundational enabler for hybrid devices, LTE stands out for its capacity to flow large volumes of data quickly. In contrast to TETRA or older generations of cellular technology, LTE has evolved to support a flexible range of spectrum resources with its efficient IP-based network architecture. This boost in mobile network access capacity and speed set the stage for new public safety applications that leverage the power of cloud-based applications.

By tapping cloud-based applications, agencies gain elastic processing and storage that is freed from the constraints of handheld devices. Because cloud-based resources can expand into a seemingly infinite pool of compute and storage capacity, potent new applications based on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning become possible. Benefits extend to system administration. To that end, day-to-day management of a cloud-based system is simpler because upgrades occur in the cloud, not on devices deployed across an agency.  So with these benefits, it is not surprising that public safety agencies are gaining interest in new hybrid device approaches.

The most prominent examples of hybrid device technology we will see at CCMENA include the Airbus Secure Land Communications Tactilon Dabat and the Hytera PTC760. These smartphone form factor devices provide native TETRA functionality augmented by a separate LTE radio subsystem. Motorola Solutions takes a different approach, in the form of its LEX L11 Mission-Critical LTE device that collaborates with a separate TETRA device by serving as a remote speaker microphone. Finally, some vendors provide LTE devices supplemented by an independent direct mode radio for DMR or TETRA. The state-of-the-art continues to evolve, and CCMENA will supply a useful snapshot of progress when attendees come to Dubai.

At Critical Communications Middle East and North Africa, attendees will find several program opportunities to explore the impact hybrid devices have on mission-critical operations. For a deep-dive into the topic, an Application Ecosystem class offered on Sunday, 23 September provides sessions on real-life experiences gained in the region. Experts from TCCA members, suppliers, network operators and end users will review lessons learned from experience. This session includes a look at early efforts in the region with a Kuwait integration project as well as Dubai's pioneering efforts by Nedaa. The plenary program, as well, includes several sessions focused on the topic of applications enabled by hybrid devices. These include a presentation by Jeppe Jepsen from Motorola Solutions as well as a panel discussion featuring officials from the U.S. FirstNet, the U.K. Home Office and Germany's BDBOS agency. 

As with any conference event, attendees benefit from the opportunities that come from engaging with fellow travelers across government and industry. Be it the exhibition hall, the conference sessions or the masterclasses, CCMENA offers a rare chance to connect face-to-face with the thought leaders shaping the future of mission-critical communications technology. This conference is one of the last major opportunities of the year to explore the rapidly changing world of hybrid TETRA/LTE devices with a broad cross-section of stakeholders.