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Budapest TETRA Network, Hungary

Key Data

Faced with outdated legacy systems, Hungary's public safety organisations spent 24 months between 1997 and 1999 in trials of a full TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) system and are now set to lead their western counterparts in TETRA implementation. An estimated &128#;200 million has been earmarked by the government to build the network.

Bidding for the TETRA tender was shortlisted to Motorola and Nokia in November 2001. Unfortunately in January 2001 MP TETRA, the Hungarian firm established to introduce the technology, broke off talks with the two bidders. It is thought that discussions will recommence after the parliamentary elections in Spring 2002.


In 1997, while many European public safety organisations were just completing theoretical and lab studies of TETRA technology, the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior were commencing their studies.

Painfully aware of the acute need to update old, overloaded and poorly performing communications systems, the public safety authorities in Hungary aimed to make a technological leapfrog over their traditionally more advanced western European counterparts. In conjunction with Antenna Hungaria, the national broadcasting company commissioned to run Hungary's operational TETRA trial on behalf of the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior, teams from the various public safety organisations based in Budapest began preparations for a live combined TETRA trial in the capital city. These included the Police, Ambulance and Fire Services, Customs and Excise, Prisons, Civil Guard, Border Guard and Security Services.


In November 1998 Nokia, the Budapest Ministry of the Interior and Antenna Hungaria signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the supply of equipment for TETRA field trials in Hungary. The Ministry of the Interior together with emergency organisations in Hungary have planned field trials in Budapest to establish the suitability of TETRA for secure, shared radio communications between various emergency organisations including the police, fire brigades and the border guard in Hungary. The trials took place for application within ambulance services.

The trial started in early 1999 with Nokia supplying a one-site container system and a number of radio terminals. They remained involved until the Info '99 Exhibition in Budapest at the end of April 1999, when the container was removed to another destination. On 5 March 1999, Antenna Hungaria was able to demonstrate live working interoperability between the equipment of the two manufacturers in the field, proving to the Hungarian TETRA Forum that the open standard was indeed working.

28 April 1999 marked the start of the third phase of the trial. Integrated data communications on a TETRA network were put through their paces following an upgrade to the installed network. The trial teams were then able to put status messaging, alphanumeric free text messaging (like SMS) and dispatch messaging through their paces. The network data upgrade also allowed other third party IT application providers to participate in the Hungarian TETRA trial.


The TETRA trial has enjoyed enthusiastic support from all participants who have had a chance to use TETRA technology. The clarity and quality of speech and lack of party line communications has impressed users who only have experience of older analogue technologies.

The trial has also thrown up some added spin-off benefits which some user groups had not been expecting. Prior to having TETRA the Ambulance Service was using open conventional channels for its communication. The problem with this was that journalists were constantly monitoring the communication and were quite often at the scene of an incident when the emergency vehicle arrived. Since switching to the digital TETRA platform, however, the ability to monitor the communication with cheap scanners has been removed and the journalists are nowhere to be seen. This has helped staff to concentrate on the job of saving lives.

The Police noted a similar occurrence: the switch to TETRA digital actually caused the crime count to rise in the first instance. The communications were regularly monitored by criminals and since they did not realise it had switched from analogue to digital they must have thought all the officers had gone on holiday when the communications stopped. The crime wave was short lived, however, and TETRA continues to help make it difficult for criminals to listen to and track Police movements.