DMR is very much on track

Monday, 28 March, 2011

In the November/December issue of RadioComms Asia-Pacific, David Cox, operations manager of Pacific Wireless Communications, took the DMR Association to task for what he described as a “pied piper” march to the “dream of digital utopia” and the new standards that may be adopted. The DMR has responded and this is its reply.

The article ‘DMR - is it the road to nowhere?’ painted a very misleading picture of DMR.

David Cox asserts that the digital radio market needs are already fulfilled by TETRA and P25 - well-established technologies designed for voice services for public safety and with a multivendor offering.

While they are now reaching into other market sectors, DMR vendors believe that due to the focus on public safety requirements, these technologies do not meet the needs of all business and professional users in the most effective way.

This is backed by the number of TETRA and P25 manufacturers who are choosing to invest in DMR technology as well as continuing to develop TETRA and P25 products.

The article refers to proprietary elements in DMR that manufacturers introduce to diminish the open standard. While various manufacturers do provide additional functionality over and above the DMR standard, this is exactly the same in the P25 and TETRA product offerings.

Where manufacturers are designing solutions specifically suited to specific market segments this is inevitable and the customer has the choice whether or not they intend to use these features.

One of the key objectives of the DMR Association has been to define and run a robust, transparent and cost-effective interoperability process to provide customers with the assurance that when they purchase DMR equipment from one vendor, they do so with the confidence they will not be locked into one choice of supplier with potentially adverse long-term consequences.

Two formal sets of testing took place during 2010, two more have taken place already in 2011 and more are planned for later in the year.

The interoperability process defines mandatory and optional features for testing. Mandatory features are basic voice features; optional features include status and control functionality. The DMR Association is actively working on further areas of agreement for interoperability.

The Pacific Wireless article indicates that DMR targets the small/medium-sized fleets of 10 to 50 users. While DMR Tier II has a place in this market segment, DMR Tier II is also in use today in fleets of several thousand users.

The DMR Tier III offerings will provide a mission-critical and business mature trunking solution for the large operational critical business systems and will be well set up to offer an alternative to P25 and TETRA in those markets where the customers have a choice of digital technology.

DMR Association member companies actively developing Tier III products include Fylde Micro, Hytera, Tait Radio Communications and Team Simoco; other companies with an interest in DMR are also expected to develop to this part of the standard too. Put simply, Tier III is real and will be commercially available within the next 12 months.

Narrowbanding is not the compelling reason for many analog users to look at replacing their system. More and more users are in need of more channels and instead of acquiring more spectrum - which may be difficult to obtain - using a spectral efficient technology like DMR will give them a significant business advantage.

From the data available to the DMR Association, we believe that far from being on “the road to nowhere”, DMR has already become the worldwide market-leading standard for digital two-way radio - for the business and professional market tier - as measured by units sold.

DMR radios are in use in over 100 countries. DMR detractors will cry: “That’s all from one manufacturer.” While it is true today to say that the majority of DMR equipment in the market is from one manufacturer, this does not do justice to the other three vendors who currently have Tier II (digital conventional) equipment in the market, and the further six who have publicly announced product in development - which amounts to very strong industry support of the standard.

The Pacific Wireless article indicates that the only market space left for DMR is occupied by NXDN and dPMR. NXDN is a proprietary specification with only two vendors supplying product.

While they interoperate at a conventional level, the trunked implementations are vendor-specific. dPMR is designed to be a more open standard but currently only one vendor has commercially available product and one other vendor has announced products.

The DMR Association believes that ultimately the customer will decide which is the best technology for them, but it is clear that DMR is some way ahead both in terms of units sold and in terms of manufacturer backing.

DMR meets the requirements of the business and professional market and has the wide support not only of equipment vendors, but application providers and network operators.

DMR Tier II has established a clear marketplace with hundreds of thousands of users - DMR Tier III when available later this year will do the same and will prove to be a very viable alternative to P25 and TETRA in the large operation and mission-critical systems.

Clearly, DMR IS on track.

DMR Association, Christchurch

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