HM Revenue and Customs is to spend an estimated £60m over 15 years with Airwave, the encrypted trunked radio system for Britain's police and emergency services, to provide secure radio communications to its investigators.
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HMRC investigators will use it for voice communications, but may add data communications later. They will also be able to link to other agencies on the system such as local police, fire and ambulance services. The deal includes in-building coverage, a more expensive option than the usual service provided to emergency services.
An HMRC spokesman said the department needed encryption because of the sensitive content of the information being passed. "HMRC is responsible not only for the collection and administration of direct and indirect taxes, but also enforcement, frontier detection of controlled, restricted or prohibited items, as well as criminal investigation into organised crime, drug smuggling and counterfeiting to name but a few," he said.
"We will access the network whenever we need to. We are in the process of selecting new radios and creating operational talk groups," he said. Airwave will supply HMRC with a central control room and 4,000 connections that cover 99% of Britain.
HMRC had considered expanding its existing analogue system. "But that was too costly compared with sharing the Airwave network," the HMRC spokesman said.
An Airwave spokesman said the deal made HMRC its fourth-largest customer.