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I am employed by Netnod as head of engineering, research and development and am among other things chair of the Security and Stability Advisory Committee at ICANN. You can find CV and photos of me at this page.

As I wear so many hats, I find it being necessary to somewhere express my personal view on things. This is the location where that happens. Postings on this blog, or at Facebook, Twitter etc, falls under this policy.

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RAKEL / TETRA discussed again in Sweden

I have for years discussed the RAKEL/TETRA deployment in Sweden. And my view have always been that although the current investment is solving some real problems, specifically for the Police, one can never say that it was worth the investment.

I have in this blog written about it a few times as you can see if you search for RAKEL.

Today, Maria Abrahamsson (m) writes an article in Dagens Nyheter that talk about exactly the same things. I hope at last people will seriously investigate what is really happening, because although we have already put too much money into this project, the earlier we stop, the better.

My thesis is that when the need was discovered (far too late by the way) for a new radio system for communication, we participated in the pan-European TETRA standardisation, that failed. Reason for this is that it too quickly decided to define their own standard instead of participating in the development of the 3G and later 4G path that the private sector was pushing.

Main arguments for use of TETRA for RAKEL I understand, but I still think the wrong choice was done:

  • We should use TETRA because neighbouring countries like Denmark is using it.
  • We can not use 3G as 3G do not have the ability to communicate between two handsets without any base station.
  • We can not use 3G as 3G do not give the ability for one handset to quickly create and use “groups” for many to many communication.

The problem with these arguments is that I claim the first is false as Denmark could just like everyone else in Europe used an improved 3G standard. The other two arguments, that one must be able to use the handsets very much like a walkie talkie, is something that either could have been added to the 3G standard, one could always have a minimal base station at incidents, or one could have an extra walkie talkie feature in the handsets.

As the article point out, the evolution of TETRA/RAKEL will never be able to even catch up to the current 3G standard regarding coverage and ability to use data communication, and those two arguments by themselves should be enough to start the process of killing this money consuming project.

We will now see if something is happening, although I am pessimistic. Specifically as (as we can see in the comments to the article in DN) the deployed TETRA / RAKEL system is solving some problems for many individuals on the field. It does — but at what cost?

1 comment to RAKEL / TETRA discussed again in Sweden

  • Sam

    Two things: coverage is king, and there ain’t no free lunches.

    As for coverage and ad-hoc coverage, Tetra works around 370 MHz which by the laws of physics gives it both range and penetration not comparable to that of 2100 MHz (current 3G) or even 900 MHz (current GSM, future 3G and LTE). Is there any operator that gives you flawless GSM coverage everywhere?

    Low frequencies unfortunately mean narrow bandwidths, which means that no 3G and none except the most narrow-banded version of LTE could be squeezed in, i.e. commercial networks won’t bear the cost.

    As for the ad-hoc coverage, i.e. that one handset can relay for another (squad car to patrol man, but also between patrol man and patrol man) and that handsets can talk directly without base stations – helpful in a catastrophe environment – would introduce extra cost in any technology.

    Add to this that the commercial operator may or may not be willing to introduce that kind of functionality to its commercial clients because of the difficulty of charging for it.

    For some years to come emergency services would have to be shoe-horned onto GSM. What would the cost of that be, who would mandate it, for which operator(s) (only one needed per country), and who would pick up the bill?

    Successive Swedish governments have used arguments as “EU standard”, “adapted for emergency services”, but also hard limits such as that the current systems are literally falling apart, etc without talking about the alternative costs of doing things differently. Perhaps they should have, but would they have come to another conclusion?