The Home Office has taken the first step to provide the emergency services with cheaper, better and smarter communications services to help protect the public and save lives.
A formal Official Journal of the European Communities contract notice has been issued by the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP), a Home Office led, cross-departmental programme set up to provide cheaper, better and smarter communications services for the emergency services, called the Emergency Services Network (ESN).
ESN could offer the ability to share patient records and images with a paramedic on call or en route to hospital; it could provide building diagrams to help plan and coordinate fire fighting across multiple fire and rescue services. Broadband data services cannot be delivered via the technology used by the existing TETRA system.
The new services, the contract for which will be worth between £555m and £1.2bn, will replace the existing Airwave system as contracts expire between 2016 and 2020.
Minister of State for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, Damian Green, said, “A modern communications system will give the emergency services new and vital tools they can use to protect the public and save lives. This announcement is a significant step towards delivering the new Emergency Services Network communication service, which will become a key part of our critical national infrastructure.”
The ESN is expected to require an enhanced commercial network to deliver broadband data services. The current service, Airwave, is run on a private mobile radio system.
On an enhanced commercial network the emergency services will get priority over other users, which will avoid the need for separate and expensive mobile radio spectrum.
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.