Early next year, Belgian police and other public safety workers will be able to use new digital mobile radios not only to talk, but also to set up 'always-on' packet-switched Internet Protocol (IP) data connections, according to a statement Wednesday from wireless communications equipment supplier Nokia.
With the IP-enabled radios, users will be able to connect to secure central databases or public Internet servers.
Nokia's communications infrastructure division, Nokia Networks, will supply its IP data networking equipment to ASTRID, an organisation set up and owned by the Belgian government to build and operate a nationwide digital mobile radio network shared by all the country's emergency and public safety services. The network is based on TETRA (Terrestrial Enhanced Trunked RAdio), a new standard for digital mobile radio being developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). ETSI was also behind the development of the mobile phone standard, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications).
TETRA IP significantly enhances access to WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) services compared to the performance of mobile phones, according to Nokia.
WAP technology has been castigated by disappointed GSM users for the length of time it takes to connect to a service. This is because WAP over GSM operates in circuit-switched mode, and as with starting an Internet connection over a terrestrial phone line, the handset must dial up a modem, set up a network session and log into a gateway server before treating each request. With TETRA IP, the connection is set up just once when the radio is turned on, enabling an almost instantaneous response to later requests.
Many GSM network operators are upgrading their networks to support GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), which will offer much the same performance improvement as TETRA IP offers TETRA mobile radio users, but mobile phones supporting this technology are not expected on the market before the first quarter of next year, when Nokia expects the ASTRID network to go live. Until then, frustrated Belgian street-surfers may have no option but to ask a policeman.