Suppliers have attended an event held by the Home Office to discuss details of the new Emergency Services Network ahead of submitting tenders later this year.
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The new Emergency Services Network (ESN) is due to go live in 2017, the year after the existing contract expires. Meanwhile, the Home Office has said contracts for a new enhanced, flexible and affordable communication system for the emergency services network will be awarded in 2015.
In July, businesses were invited to tender for the network to replace the existing emergency services systems, currently provided by Airwave, which will expire in 2016. Tenders will have to be submitted in the autumn of this year.
The ESN falls under the auspices of the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme, a Home Office-led, cross-departmental programme that aims to provide cheaper and smarter network services for ambulance, fire and police services.
Full list of invited bidders
Lot 1: Atkins; Kellogg, Brown and Root; KPMG; Lockheed Martin UK; Mott MacDonald
Lot 2: Airwave Solutions, Astrium, CGI IT UK, HP Enterprise Services UK ; Motorola Solutions UK
Lot 3: Airwave Solutions, EE, Telefonica UK, UK Broadband Networks, Vodafone
Lot 4: Airwave Solutions, Arqiva, EE, Telefonica UK, Vodafone
The Home Office has confirmed that these oganisations have attended a "supplier conference" hosted by the department to discuss the tender.
At the event, delegates were given detailed briefings on the requirements for the new network by the three emergency services representatives from government departments and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.
Minister of state for policing, criminal justice and victims, Mike Penning, said the emergency services needs modernised communications to help protect the public and save lives.
“We are on track to deliver this critical part of our national infrastructure by 2017,” he said.
“Interest in providing the new emergency services network and its supporting elements is strong; we expect those organisations selected to tender to produce proposals to create a communications network that is the best in the world,” he said.
The tender consists of four lots:
- ESN Delivery Partner, providing transition support, cross-lot integration and support, programme management services, training support, test assurance and vehicle installation design and assurance.
- ESN User Services, providing end-to-end technical integration services, public safety communications services, telecoms infrastructure, device management, customer support and service management.
- ESN Mobile Services, providing a resilient mobile network with highly available full coverage across the country, extended coverage over the lot four telecoms network and technical interfaces to lots two and four.
- ESN Extension Services, providing coverage beyond the lot three network and enabling the lot three supplier to extend coverage.
The government also expects it will require an enhanced commercial service network for broadband data delivery which – if needed for voice – will grant emergency services priority over other users, avoiding the necessity for a separate mobile radio spectrum.
The finished network will cover around 250,000 operational staff and associated devices, 44 police and crime commissioners and services, 50 fire and rescue authorities and services, 13 ambulance services, the National Crime Agency, the British Transport Police, the MoD Police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the National Police Air Service.
More than 400 other bodies, which regularly interact with the emergency services, may need the ability to use the ESN, potentially adding 50,000 further connected devices. Such organisations could include central or local government departments, non-departmental public bodies and agencies, local authorities, and even NGOs.
Last month, Computer Weekly asked Airwave's chief operating officer, John Lewis, how he felt about Airwaves chances of retaining the government contract on three out of the four lots.
“As an incumbent there are advantages and disadvantages,” said Lewis. “We have achieved a lot, we know the customer base, and we know what they want.”