For its modulation TETRA, uses π⁄4 differential quadrature phase-shift keying. The symbol (baud) rate is 18,000 symbols per second, and each symbol maps to 2 bits, thus resulting in 36,000 bit/s gross.
As a form of phase shift keying is used to transmit data during each burst, it would seem reasonable to expect the transmit power to be constant. However it is not. This is because the sidebands, which are essentially a repetition of the data in the main carrier’s modulation, are filtered off with a sharp filter so that unnecessary spectrum is not used up. This results in an amplitude modulation and is why TETRA requires linear amplifiers. The resulting ratio of peak to mean (RMS) power is 3.65 dB. If non-linear (or not-linear enough) amplifiers are used, the sidebands re-appear and cause interference on adjacent channels. Commonly used techniques for achieving the necessary linearity include Cartesian loops, and adaptive predistortion.
The base stations normally transmit continuously and (simultaneously) receive continuously from various mobiles on different carrier frequencies; hence the TETRA system is a frequency-division duplex (FDD) system. TETRA also uses FDMA/TDMA (see above) like GSM. The mobiles normally only transmit on 1 slot/4 and receive on 1 slot/4 (instead of 1 slot/8 for GSM).
Speech signals in TETRA are sampled at 8 kHz and then compressed with a vocoder using algebraic code-excited linear prediction (ACELP). This creates a data stream of 4.567 kbit/s. This data stream is error-protection encoded before transmission to allow correct decoding even in noisy (erroneous) channels. The data rate after coding is 7.2 kbit/s. The capacity of a single traffic slot when used 17/18 frames.
A single slot consists of 255 usable symbols, the remaining time is used up with synchronisation sequences and turning on/off, etc. A single frame consists of 4 slots, and a multiframe (whose duration is 1.02 seconds) consists of 18 frames. Hyperframes also exist, but are mostly used for providing synchronisation to encryption algorithms.
The downlink (i.e., the output of the base station) is normally a continuous transmission consisting of either specific communications with mobile(s), synchronisation or other general broadcasts. All slots are usually filled with a burst even if idle (continuous mode). Although the system uses 18 frames per second only 17 of these are used for traffic channels, with the 18th frame reserved for signalling, Short Data Service messages (like SMS in GSM) or synchronisation. The frame structure in TETRA (17.65 frames per second), consists of 18,000 symbols/s; 255 symbols/slot; 4 slots/frame, and is the cause of the perceived “amplitude modulation” at 17 Hz and is especially apparent in mobiles/portables which only transmit on one slot/4. They use the remaining three slots to switch frequency to receive a burst from the base station two slots later and then return to their transmit frequency (TDMA).
Air interface encryption
To provide confidentiality the TETRA air interface is encrypted using one of the TETRA Encryption Algorithm (TEA) ciphers. The encryption provides confidentiality (protect against eavesdropping) as well as protection of signalling.
Currently 4 different ciphers are defined. These TEA ciphers should not be confused with the block cipher Tiny Encryption Algorithm. The TEA ciphers have different availability due to export and use restrictions. Few details are published concerning these proprietary ciphers. Riess mentions in early TETRA design documents that encryption should be done with a stream cipher, due to the property of not propagating transmission errors. Parkinson later confirms this and explains that TEA is a stream cipher with 80-bit keys. TEA1 and TEA4 provide basic level security, and are meant for commercial use. The TEA2 cipher is restricted to European public safety organisations. The TEA3 cipher is for situations where TEA2 is suitable but not available.
Cell re-selection (or hand-over)
This first representation demonstrates where the slow reselect threshold (SRT), the fast reselect threshold (FRT), and propagation delay exceed parameters are most likely to be. These are represented in association with the decaying radio carrier as the distance increases from the TETRA base station.
From this illustration, these SRT and FRT triggering points are associated to the decaying radio signal strength of the respective cell carriers. The thresholds are situated so that the cell reselection procedures occur on time and assure communication continuity for on-going communication calls.
Initial cell selection
The next diagram illustrates where a given TETRA radio cell initial selection. The initial cell selection is performed by procedures located in the MLE and in the MAC. When the cell selection is made, and possible registration is performed, the mobile station (MS) is said to be attached to the cell. The mobile is allowed to initially select any suitable cell that has a positive C1 value; i.e., the received signal level is greater than the minimum receive level for access parameter.
The initial cell selection procedure shall ensure that the MS selects a cell in which it can reliably decode downlink data (i.e., on a main control channel/MCCH), and which has a high probability of uplink communication. The minimum conditions that shall have to be met are that C1 > 0. Access to the network shall be conditional on the successful selection of a cell.
At mobile switch on, the mobile makes its initial cell selection of one of the base stations, which indicates the initial exchanges at activation.
The next diagram illustrates where a given TETRA radio cell becomes improvable. The serving cell becomes improvable when the following occurs: the C1 of the serving cell is below the value defined in the radio network parameter cell reselection parameters, slow reselect threshold for a period of 5 seconds, and the C1 or C2 of a neighbour cell exceeds the C1 of the serving cell by the value defined in the radio network parameter cell reselection parameters, slow reselect hysteresis for a period of 5 seconds.
The next diagram illustrates where a given TETRA radio cell becomes usable. A neighbour cell becomes radio usable when the cell has a downlink radio connection of sufficient quality.
The following conditions must be met in order to declare a neighbour cell radio usable: The neighbour cell has a path loss parameter C1 or C2 that is, for a period of 5 seconds, greater than the fast reselect threshold plus the fast reselect threshold, and the service level provided by the neighbour cell is higher than that of the serving cell. No successful cell reselection shall have taken place within the previous 15 seconds unless MM requests a cell reselection. The MS-MLE shall check the criterion for serving cell relinquishment as often as one neighbour cell is scanned or monitored.
The following conditions will cause the MS to rate the neighbour cell to have higher service level than the current serving cell:
- The MS subscriber class is supported on the neighbour cell but not on the serving cell.
- The neighbour cell is a priority cell and the serving cell is not.
- The neighbour cell supports a service (that is, TETRA standard speech, packet data, or encryption) that is not supported by the serving cell and the MS requires that service to be available.
- The cell service level indicates that the neighbour cell is less loaded than the serving cell.
Cell relinquishable (abandonable)
The next diagram illustrates where a given TETRA radio cell becomes relinquishable (abandonable). The serving cell becomes relinquishable when the following occurs: the C1 of the serving cell is below the value defined in the radio network parameter cell reselection parameters, fast reselect threshold, for a period of 5 seconds, and the C1 or C2 of a neighbour cell exceeds the C1 of the serving cell by the value defined in the radio network parameter cell reselection parameters, fast reselect hysteresis, for a period of 5 seconds.
No successful cell reselection shall have taken place within the previous 15 seconds unless Mobility Management (MM) requests a cell reselection. The MS-MLE shall check the criterion for serving cell relinquishment as often as one neighbour cell is scanned or monitored.
Radio down-link failure
When the FRT threshold is breached, the MS is in a situation where it is essential to relinquish (or abandon) the serving cell and obtain another of at least usable quality. That is to say, the mobile station is aware that the radio signal is decaying rapidly, and must cell reselect rapidly, before communications are terminated because of radio link failure. When the mobile station radio-signal breaches the minimum receive level, the radio is no longer in a position to maintain acceptable communications for the user, and the radio link is broken.
Radio link failure: (C1 < 0). Using the suggested values, this would be satisfied with the serving cell level below −105 dBm. Cell reselection procedures are then activated in order to find a suitable radio base station.