Emergency services one step closer to new comms network

The next phase of the Home Office led Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) to create an enhanced, flexible and affordable communication system for the emergency services was completed on 7 July as companies were formally invited to tender for the new Emergency Services Network (ESN).

The contracts for the existing emergency services systems, provided by Airwave Solutions Ltd, will begin to expire in September 2016. A replacement service is necessary and re-competition is legally required by the expiry in 2020 of the existing contracts.

The ESN contract is divided up into four parts or ‘lots’ and includes responsibility for: managing the transition from old to new systems; developing and operating the telecoms infrastructure and public safety applications, installing equipment and making sure everything is integrated and works; providing an enhanced mobile communications network service with enhanced availability for the emergency services and highly available full coverage; and providing a highly available telecoms infrastructure covering parts of the UK outside regular mobile network coverage.

The companies invited to tender include:

  • Lot 1 – ESN Delivery Partner (DP): Atkins Limited; Kellogg Brown and Root Limited; KPMG LLP; Lockheed Martin UK Ltd; Mott MacDonald
  • Lot 2 – ESN User Services (US): Airwave Solutions Ltd, Astrium Limited, CGI IT UK Ltd, HP Enterprise Services UK Ltd; Motorola Solutions Ltd UK
  • Lot 3 – ESN Mobile Services (MS): Airwave Solutions Ltd, EE Limited, Telefonica UK Limited, UK Broadband Networks Limited, Vodafone Ltd
  • Lot 4 – ESN Extension Services (ES): Airwave Solutions Ltd, Arqiva, EE Ltd, Telefonica UK Limited, Vodafone Ltd.

Tenders will be submitted in the autumn 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.

Close partnership

The new network is being developed in close partnership with the emergency services and will add broadband data capabilities that are increasingly used to help save lives.

The ESN is expected to require an enhanced commercial network to deliver broadband data services. If it is used for voice communications, the emergency services will have priority over other users, avoiding the need for a separate and expensive mobile radio spectrum.

The combined value of the four lots is estimated to be between £555m and £1.2bn depending on the extent of take up of services by other Government and local public safety bodies in addition to the police, fire and rescue and ambulance services and any extension options.

The three emergency services service will be required to provide for:

  • Approximately 250,000 operational staff (with a broadly equivalent number of connected mobile communication devices, taking into account the proportion of staff with a device, vehicles and pools of spare devices) across the police, fire and rescue and ambulance services
  • 44 police and crime commissioners/services
  • 50 fire and rescue authorities/services
  • 13 ambulance trusts
  • The National Crime Agency
  • Three non-Home Office police services – British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary
  • The National Police Air Service.

The new ESN will also provide a service for more than just the police, fire and rescue and ambulance services. Over 400 government and local public safety and other bodies use the current system and will potentially require the ability to use ESN. These other bodies may add up to approximately 50,000 additional connected devices, and may include the central government departments, non-departmental public bodies and agencies, local authorities in Great Britain and a number of charitable bodies and other organisations that interact with public safety bodies.