Emergency Services Network: looking at the future of mobile communications

Last year the Home Office announced that the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) will be replacing services provided by Airwave Solutions Ltd with a new national mobile communication service. The Emergency Services Network (ESN) will feature voice and on-demand data services, including specific public safety features.

The cross-departmental programme began in 2011 and seeks to develop and implement a secure and interoperable mobile communications solution for the three emergency services and other category 1 and 2 responders.

The reason for this change is because contracts with the current supplier, Airwave, and other commercial providers using the next generation commercial network (4G LTE), will start to expire from 2016. According to the ESMCP, it is felt that Airwave is expensive when compared with similar systems more recently deployed in other countries. Additionally, although Airwave was the first national public safety network based on the TETRA technology standard, the technology used by the existing TETRA system is not capable of delivering broadband data services, which users are acquiring directly from the telecoms market.

Key objectives

The key objectives for ESN are to establish a communication system that is:

• Cheaper—to ensure ESN is delivered cost-effectively and able to take advantage of future technological developments
• Better—users are increasingly relying on commercial providers to provide broadband data services. ESN intends to provide this as a core service with appropriate security and availability
• Smarter—Different users will use ESN in different ways so the service will be flexible to allow users to choose only the services relevant to them.

The next phase

On 7 July 2014, the ESMCP released information concerning the next phase of the new communication system, where companies were formally invited to tender for ESN. It was explained that the core procurement for ESN will be divided into four lots:

• Lot 1—ESN Delivery Partner (DP)—transition support, cross-lot integration and user support: a delivery partner to provide programme management services for cross-lot ESN integration in transition; vehicle installation design and assurance; training support services; and delivery support during the implementation of ESN. Companies invited to tender for Lot 1 include Atkins Limited; Kellogg Brown and Root Limited; KPMG LLP; Lockheed Martin UK Ltd; and Mott MacDonald
• Lot 2—ESN User Services (US)—a technical service integrator to provide end-to-end systems integration for the ESN: to develop and operate the public safety applications; the necessary telecommunications infrastructure; mobile device management; customer support; and service management. Companies invited to tender for Lot 2 include Airwave Solutions Ltd, Astrium Limited, CGI IT UK Ltd, HP Enterprise Services UK Ltd; and Motorola Solutions Ltd UK
• Lot 3—ESN Mobile Services (MS)—a resilient mobile network: a network operator to provide an enhanced mobile communications service with highly available full coverage in the defined Lot 3 area (in GB/UK), highly available extended coverage over Lot 4 telecommunications infrastructure, and technical interfaces to Lots 2 and 4. Companies invited to tender for Lot 3 include Airwave Solutions Ltd, EE Limited, Telefonica UK Limited, UK Broadband Networks Limited, Vodafone Ltd
• Lot 4—ESN Extension Services (ES)—coverage beyond the Lot 3 network: a neutral host to provide a highly available telecommunications infrastructure in the defined Lot 4 areas to enable the Lot 3 supplier to extend their coverage, and technical interfaces to the Lot 3 supplier. Companies invited to tender for Lot 4 include Airwave Solutions Ltd, Arqiva, EE Ltd, Telefonica UK Limited, Vodafone Ltd.

Tenders will be submitted in Autumn 2014 and will then be subject to detailed evaluation. Contracts will be awarded in 2015 and the new ESN, designed to help the emergency services protect the public and save lives, will go live from 2016/17.

Minister of State for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, Damian Green, said:

‘Interest in providing the new emergency services network and its supporting elements has been strong, with 34 organisations completing in-depth pre-qualification questionnaires. After rigorous evaluation by the Home Office and representatives of the emergency services we are now inviting those organisations we consider to be best suited to tender formally for the work.

‘We remain on track to deliver this key part of our critical national infrastructure by the end of 2016 and today marks another step towards the emergency services having the modern communications network they need to protect the public and save lives.’

Approximately 250 000 operational staff across the three emergency services will use ESN when it is rolled out. Therefore, it is essential that the new communication system offers extensive coverage, high resilience and enhanced security, to ensure public safety can be maintained.

References

Home Office (2013) Emergency Services Mobile Communication Programme. The Stationery Office, London

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 1 August 2014.

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