The final, final word on P25 — at least for now
A month or so ago, we published reader comments in response to a column I wrote concerning the Project 25, or P25, standards suite. In that column, I opined that P25 hadn't fulfilled its promise in terms of forging a pathway to lower-cost radios by creating an open architecture that would eliminate proprietary systems once and for all.
In the follow-up column, we gave industry guru John Powell, a member of the P25 steering committee, the "final" word on the matter. Or so we thought.
Powell wrote that P25 portable radios can be had right now for about $700 each, and that compliant radios have been available for about a decade. He added that the process to develop TETRA, the European digital radio standard, was started at about the same time as the P25 effort and is at about the same stage in its development today. Finally, Powell alleged that P25 has "a noticeably wider world market" than TETRA, based upon the number of systems sold.
This got the attention of Phil Godfrey, chairman of the TETRA MoU Association, who wrote in response. We found his commentary compelling and thought it only fair that we give him a chance for rebuttal. Here it is, edited for length:
"It is correct to say that the two standards of TETRA and P25 were started around the same time. But the contention that the TETRA standard today is at about the same stage in its development as P25 could not be further from the truth. The TETRA standard defines a fully trunked digital communications technology that offers air interface encryption, end-to-end encryption, short data messaging, circuit mode data and packet data, all using 4-slot TDMA techniques providing 6.25 kHz equivalent channel spacing.
"TETRA was completed several years ago and systems are in use today employing all of these features. P25, on the other hand, first developed a conventional (radio-to-radio) technology without trunking. … The trunking version of P25, which is more comparable to TETRA, took many more years to complete. Meanwhile, TETRA trunked systems were being rolled out long before this.
"Regarding market size, TETRA has more than 1200 contracts in 88 countries, and with more manufacturers now producing compliant products, the market is expanding rapidly. In addition to transport, utility and military customers, TETRA is in use by public-safety agencies across the globe. … It is possible that Mr Powell was referring to the fact that the available market for P25 is larger than for TETRA. This is indeed true because, at the moment, TETRA is blocked from sale in North America due to the refusal of certain well-known companies to license TETRA intellectual property rights in North America."
In his e-mail to me, Godfrey stressed that he wrote not to get into a shoving match with Powell and his P25 compatriots, but rather to simply set the record straight. And so he has.
E-mail me at [email protected].