The UK Home Office has signed the final main contracts with Motorola Solutions and mobile operator EE for its £1.2bn Emergency Services Network (ESN). Motorola Solutions is responsible for the delivery of the Lot 2 user services contract, providing systems integration and public safety functionality. EE will be required to provide an enhanced radio access service with nationwide coverage under the Lot 3 mobile services contract.
EE and Motorola Solutions will join Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) which was awarded the Lot 1 delivery partner services contract in July and is already at work helping to oversee the new ESN to complete the line up for the three main ESN contracts. The awards come as no surprise as Motorola and EE were the only bidders left for their contracts following the withdrawal from the bidding process by HP on Lot 2 and Telefonica on Lot 3.
ESN will provide 300,000 emergency services personnel with a 4G LTE broadband voice and data service, which will replace the current narrowband TETRA two-way system operated by Airwave. ESN will begin to provide its services to some police, fire and ambulance services from mid-2017, gradually bringing them all onto ESN as the Airwave contracts expire from late 2016 with the last ending in early 2020.
Airwave is a privately run mission critical radio network with its own dedicated infrastructure and spectrum designed wholly for use by approximately 250,000 emergency services staff and another 50,000 smaller users. However, TETRA, while extremely good for voice services, is limited in the amount of data it can handle.
The decision to move the emergency services onto a 4G network run by a commercial mobile operator where they will have to share the same infrastructure and spectrum with EE’s 24 million consumer subscribers is unprecedented and controversial in the public safety world - no other country has opted for, or as yet, is even contemplating going down this route.
The UK Government has deemed the creation of a dedicated 4G network for the emergency services as too expensive – and besides there is currently no spectrum available to run it on anyway. At least not until after 2019, when some 700MHz spectrum could become available after current digital terrestrial TV incumbents are cleared off the band, and if the Government was then minded to reserve some spectrum for public safety use.
Several countries including the USA, Qatar, Dubai and probably South Korea have or are building separate 4G networks with dedicated spectrum for their public safety users. Other countries such as Belgium, The Netherlands and Finland have opted to retain and upgrade their TETRA networks and provide ‘best effort’ broadband services to their emergency services using some form of MVNO provided by their country’s commercial mobile operators.
The signing of the final ESN contracts follows the announcement in the recent Spending Review that the Government has committed an additional £1bn to overhaul the emergency services network. The new network is expected to save the taxpayer £1 million a day.
Minister of State for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims Mike Penning said: “Following the Government’s £1bn commitment in the Spending Review, I am delighted to announce today’s major achievement in providing the emergency services with a new modernised communications network that is able to protect the public and save lives.
“ESN will not only provide this capability to the three emergency services but over 300 other public safety organisations that rely on this ability every day. We have carefully evaluated each bidder’s skills and expertise against requirements that were set by the emergency services themselves and are confident that the successful bidders will provide a world class communications network that our services deserve in today’s modern world.”
The Government has stated that EE will provide broadband data services using an enhanced version of its commercial mobile network with additional coverage, resilience and security; this will rely on commercial spectrum and priority access. However, while EE will be expanding its network coverage considerably, it will not cover all of the country.
ESN originally had a Lot 4, which was designed to provide extended coverage in rural and hard to reach areas. Only Arqiva was prepared to submit a bid for what was clearly seen as a very unattractive commercial proposition. Lot 4 was subsequently dropped in January this year with the Home Office claiming it could be covered by Lot 3.
Since then, Lot 4 has been revived under a different guise of a separate Extended Area Services. The Government will pay for infrastructure to be installed in certain geographic areas such as central Wales, the Pennines, parts of Yorkshire and the West of Scotland. EE will then run its services over that infrastructure.
In a statement issued today, EE said that in order to deliver the mission critical Emergency Services Network (ESN), it will:
• Build a new, highly resilient dedicated core network for the Emergency Services
• Build more than 500 new sites, expanding coverage in rural areas
• Switch on low frequency 800MHz spectrum on more than 3,800 sites to enhance rural and indoor coverage
• Implement the capability to afford network access priority to Emergency Services when required
• Implement VoLTE (calls over 4G), and new LTE voice capabilities including ‘push to talk’
• Deploy a fleet of rapid response vehicles to ensure maximum service availability
• Implement satellite backhaul for Britain’s most hard-to-reach areas.
EE CEO Olaf Swantee said: “We are immensely proud to be selected to deliver this vital new network for Britain’s Emergency Services. We’ve worked closely with the police and ambulance crews to show the power of 4G in helping save time and save lives. We will now work tirelessly to deliver a highly resilient, truly nationwide 4G network to serve all of Britain’s Blue Light and First Responder teams across the UK.”
EE said it has already committed to spend £1.5 billion on its network up to 2017, and will increase that investment in order to deliver the Emergency Services Network. It added that work to enhance and expand the EE network has already commenced in order to be ready in time for the first transitions, and existing consumer, business and public sector customers will benefit from this.
The operator also said that its dedicated EE Emergency Services team will work closely with the current provider, Airwave, the Lot 2 service provider, Motorola, and Lot 1 delivery partner KBR, as well as all 300,000 end users to manage a smooth transition to the new 4G network.
Commenting on its award, Manuel Torres, senior vice president of Europe and North Africa Sales & Support Services, Motorola Solutions, said: “As a company trusted with providing emergency and public safety agencies with innovative, reliable and secure critical communications technology, we are honoured to have been selected for this opportunity. We share ESN´s commitment and vision to equipping emergency and public service agencies with the functionality and capabilities that a broadband-based network can offer.”
Motorola Solutions has a long history of providing products, equipment and services to the public safety sector. It has supplied much of the infrastructure for the current Airwave service for example, as well as many radios to the emergency services.
It operates more than 20 mission-critical systems in countries including Denmark, Norway, Austria, Australia and the United States. In addition, the company is implementing the three largest public safety LTE networks in the world, located in Los Angeles County, California in the US and two Middle Eastern countries.
Further ESN contracts
A number of other contracts are also required to enable ESN to function properly, including:
• User devices and accessories
• Vehicle radio installations
• Air to ground network
• Control room upgrades (230 control rooms), which may require upgrading the integrated command and control systems; connection to the public service network; connection to mobile data systems, fire mobilising systems and command and control systems
• London Underground, Crossrail, etc – will require coverage within their networks.
• Extended Areas Services – coverage beyond that provided by EE in rural and remote areas.
Of these, coming up with a solution for the air to ground network is proving particular difficult, while there some parts of the London Underground are also proving very tricky with space for additional radio equipment at a premium in some locations.
On top of this every user organisation will need to come up with their own transition plan, device purchase plan and contract, vehicle installation contracts, training and so on.
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