David Magaña
Project Engineer
Radiocomunicaciones SAKDA

Regulatory Hurdles Hinder Radiocomunications Growth

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 10:11

An often overlooked but instrumental part of airport and airline operations are radiocommunications. The importance of this area has led to many efforts to optimize their use but Mexico faces a hurdle to properly implement them in the shape of government regulations.

The use of radio frequencies is so common that it can be taken for granted. Radio equipment is present almost everywhere, in taxis and police cars, hospitals and construction sites, pharmacies and factories and in every single location where people need to communicate constantly. Frequencies are in such demand that these coveted communications routes can cause a problem in certain circumstances, such as operations at AICM. To address similar demand at other airports, manufacturers have invested in alternatives such as Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) and Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA). Implementation of these technologies in Mexico, however, is not easy because current regulations outlaw them.

“One of the main problems radio operators are facing is the outdated regulation concerning radio frequencies,” says David Magaña, Project Engineer at Radiocomunicaciones SAKDA. “This regulation was created over 20 years ago and takes neither current sectorial needs nor technological advances into account.” It is a problem for all users, and airports and airlines are no exception. “Airlines operating in Mexico City are using analog equipment that does not have the capacity to reach the entire airport, thus they are unable to communicate across many areas and are forced to use landlines or cellphones instead.” In airports, this is more than a mere inconvenience. It may endanger operators if they find themselves unable to communicate during an emergency.

AICM has a significant communication problem due to the volume of operations. The airport has tried to generate a tender for its own communications system for the past two years. At the beginning of 2017, the airport gained authorization to use these frequencies and is now developing conditions for a tender in which Radiocomunicaciones SAKDA will participate. “For this tender, we proposed the introduction of TETRA technology, a system commonly used by airlines and airports around the world,” says Magaña. One of the main advantages of this technology is that it permits users to use up to four lines in a single frequency, an impossibility with analog equipment. For this project, the company plans to use Hytera equipment as this manufacturer is the only one worldwide providing monitoring and administrative software alongside the equipment, according to Magaña.

TETRA technology has not been implemented anywhere in Mexico, which would make Radiocomunicaciones SAKDA pioneers if its bid is successful. The company reported last year its most popular brand for airport operations was Hytera, followed by ICOM. Radiocomunicaciones SAKDA also plans to introduce TETRA technology to NAICM.

The company is participating in a project to bring DMR technology into the Airports and Auxiliary Services (ASA) network across 22 airports. The technology will allow ASA to monitor operations and provide communication services across all its airports and fuel storage units. This initiative is also expected to be implemented during 2017. Eventually the company plans to approach other airports in Mexico to offer the technology.

The company represents Motorola, Kenwood, ICOM, Vertex and Hytera. It works with Aeroméxico, Interjet, Volaris and Aeromar and sells equipment to Mexican airports. The company endeavors to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies, even before they can be implemented. Its investment in technology has paid off. Radiocomunicaciones SAKDA is an authorized distribution center for all the brands it represents.

In Magaña’s opinion the reason behind the regulatory lag is the government’s view on the use of radio frequencies. “Mexico is the only country in Latin America without modern regulations in this area and it is not a government priority,” he says. To address the regulatory challenge, Mexican radio distributors have allied forces under the National Association of Radiocommunication Equipment Distributors (ANDEAR), which represents the sector’s interests and pushes for regulatory changes. Changing this regulation must be a priority, Magaña says. “Clear regulations will be of the utmost help to all radio frequency suppliers.”