Motorola goes on the Luas with major network deal

5 Jun 2003

Mobile communications giant Motorola is within weeks of signing a major contract to provide a special TETRA mobile network to Dublin’s Luas rail network. The communications system is intended to safeguard the running of the service as well as health and safety issues.

TETRA technology paves the way for an encrypted, instantaneous voice and data network that is swiftly being adopted by police and emergency forces as well as transport companies throughout the world. For example, unlike existing mobile networks, TETRA is a private network that enables instantaneous voice communications and can allow police officers to call up extra support, look up criminal records and car registration details while on the move, and enable headquarters to know exactly where officers and vehicles are at any given time on a mapping system.

Motorola account director Ian Heath said: “TETRA makes a radical difference to the way emergency and transport organisations work in that everyone knows what’s going on at all times.” He added that the Luas project, which is due to close within two weeks, is being installed in conjunction with Sigma Wireless and Alcatel. “TETRA will enable Luas to improve efficiencies when it is up and running and enable the company to provide up-to-the-second safety monitoring and fleet management”, Heath explained.

Luas trams are due to become operational next year. However, the project has been beset by criticism ranging from worsening traffic problems to budgetary over-runs.

News of the impending Luas deal comes on the heels of Motorola signing a US$7.5m contract with the Isle of Man Government to install a TETRA network upon which the island’s police, ambulance and fire services will jointly pool their resources to provide effective services to the island’s citizens. The system is expected to be in place and working by December and over 1,500 portable handsets and mobiles have been purchased as well as 21 base station installations. According to Robert Williams, technical director of the communications division of the Isle of Man Government’s Department of Home Affairs, the TETRA network will be fully integrated into a single Emergency Service Joint Control Room (ESJCR) run by the police, fire and ambulance service, meeting an ideal long strived for by emergency services across the world.

Across the UK, more than 20 police constabularies have switched to Motorola’s TETRA technology, including the Police Service of Northern Ireland, in tune with a major push by European emergency services to adopt the system. The UK Government has mandated O2 to be the national wireless carrier for the police forces’ respective TETRA systems under the AirWave brand of services. More than 48 UK police forces will have switched to the system by 2005.

The Luas win for Motorola for its TETRA network should provide the company with confidence in its pursuit of the €90m Garda TETRA network tender for which it is competing. The tender was unveiled in 1999 and so far Nokia has been selected to provide the pilot version of the service. However, a second tender for the full installation of the secure network has sparked major competition amongst communications equipment manufacturers.

The creation of a TETRA network, which will necessitate the installation of several thousand base stations across the country, will also be of major interest to O2, Meteor and Vodafone in Ireland as well as Eircom and Esat BT. The latter is understood to be in the final stages of concluding a deal to roll out part of Hutchison’s 3G network in Ireland.

By John Kennedy