CEO Notruf NÖ Austria Compares TETRA & POCSAG Alerting
Notruf NÖ operates one of Austria’s biggest integrated rescue services, serving Lower Austria, the large region surrounding Austria’s capital Vienna. NÖ’s rescue forces, with more than 96000 voluntary firemen and 16000 voluntary paramedics, respond to more than 1.1 million emergency events per year. For these volunteers it is crucial to be alerted, quickly, accurately and reliably.
“Volunteers need to be alerted wherever they are in their daily routines; they need to be alerted in their basements, in their houses - sometimes in their old houses with big walls. Our alerting solution therefore has to provide full indoor coverage and work anywhere, anytime,“ says Christof Constantin Chwojka, CEO Notruf NÖ.
Throughout the last decade, Notruf NÖ has gathered extended experience with different public safety communication and alerting systems. The organisation benefits from a TETRA network with 400 base stations in Lower Austria and is operating a POCSAG network with 130 paging base stations covering the entire region.
At this year's Critical Communications World 2017 Hong Kong, Christof Chwojka, gave a presentation on "A Comparison of Public Safety Alerting & Communcations Technologies", comparing TETRA’s and POCSAG’s suitability from an alerting perspective. Here are some of his key findings he shared with the audience:
- POCSAG paging provides better area coverage (factor 4-10)
- POCSAG (low VHF frequencies) allows more effective building penetration
- POCSAG sites are much cheaper than TETRA infrastructure (factor 50-60)
- POCSAG allows country-wide group-alarms at the same time with only one alarm
- POCSAG devices are cheaper than TETRA devices (factor 2-3)
- POCSAG devices provide more comfort (smaller, more robust and lighter)
- POCSAG devices provide much longer battery life (factor 20-90)
Chwojka concludes that alerting via POCSAG paging is the most suitable solution for alerting a large number of intervention forces, not only from a reliability and cost perspective, but also from the perspective of the enduser’s comfort: “Volunteers don't want to sleep every night close to the charging station,“ he says.
The fact that this requires a POCSAG network next to the TETRA network does not create additional costs compared to an alerting solution with TETRA. In fact, the contrary is true, due to the difference in price of the end-user devices. Given a total of 112’000 volunteers, this amounts to more than 22 Mio Euro. With the POCSAG network amounting to less than 2 Mio Euro, this results in potential savings of more than 20 Mio Euro. “On top of that, our TETRA network is not ready for this large number of alerts, and it covers only the exterior rooms of a house in instead of the full building. To achieve the same TETRA coverage we have today with our POCSAG network by adding TETRA base stations to our TETRA network would create huge additional costs we prefer to avoid,” Chwojka continues.
Another advantage Christof Chwojka sees in two separate networks, is the overall system redundancy: “If our TETRA network is not working, we can transmit additional information through our POCSAG network, and if the POCSAG network may not be working, we can alert via TETRA, so both systems are serving as backup to each other.”
After revisiting their alerting concept for the coming years, Notruf NÖ has therefore decided to maintain and further invest in its POCSAG infrastructure. “Today our POCSAG system is not yet fully self-reliant. We want to take the next step with our partner Swissphone making our network completely independent of any third-party infrastructure. We therefore plan to implement Swissphone’s newest network technology with additional fallback modes such as allowing base stations to communicate over the air if necessary,” says Chwojka.
“We want to be ready for any potential future events such as terrorist attacks on infrastructure. Whatever happens to a base station, whatever happens to a transmission in the network, whatever happens in the command centre, to the network controller , to whatever, must not be a problem in the future, that is our goal and that is what we want to reach,” Chwojka concludes.