Potomac Spectrum Partners (PSP), a private company based in Maryland, recently announced that is teaming with partners TASSTA, PowerTrunk (part of the Sepura Group) and Space Data to develop a nationwide TETRA network for mission-critical voice, data and Internet of Things applications.

Bruce Scapier, managing member at PSP, said that PowerTrunk will provide the TETRA equipment that will serve as the backbone of the system, TASSTA will provide interoperable push-to-talk capability and Space Data’s balloon-based system will allow base stations to operate more than 60,000 feet in the air, enabling vast coverage and quick deployment cycles.

PSP plans to begin its efforts with the deployment of two networks “around the U.S. Midwest” during the fourth quarter of this year, according to a company press release. One will be a statewide system, and the other will cover a city with a population of more than 2 million people. While PSP plans to cover more than 5 million people by the end of the year, Scapier declined to estimate how long it would take the company to reach its nationwide coverage goal.

“This is a multiyear process,” Scapier said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “It will be driven by the receptivity that our process receives within the marketplace. We’re prepared to do it, but it would be foolish of us to say that it will be done in a year or two—it’s not going to happen that fast.”

PSP will leverage 800 MHz SMR frequencies for the initial deployments and plans to integrate 900 MHz SMR channels in the future, Scapier said. “Hundreds” of Space Data balloons will be used to provide coverage for the initial deployments that will provide greater resilience than even the most hardened terrestrial towers, because they are not impacted by terrestrial events.

“The balloons are not to replace terrestrial sites,” Scapier said. “In high-density-population areas, terrestrial sites obviously make the most sense. In lower-density areas where there may be still a need or requirement, it’s the only economical way that we can find to provide coverage.

“I came late to accepting the balloons. But we went to Chandler, Ariz., and saw it ourselves, and I was blown away—literally—with the coverage capability that we saw. Twenty minutes after we all lost cell-phone coverage, we were getting coverage in canyon areas … that was mind-boggling.

“I brought a lot of skepticism to this process, but I must admit that they [Space Data officials] made a believer out of me.”