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Emergency Services Network gets funding boost in Spending Review

The Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme emerges from the government's Spending Review a billion pounds better off

The government is to invest nearly £1bn in new mobile digital technology to shore up the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP).

“This critical national infrastructure will free up officers’ time, save the taxpayer around £1m a day when fully operational and connect all emergency services on the same broadband network for the first time,” the government said in its Policy Paper.

The ESMCP aims to provide an enhanced commercial – meaning shared with the public – 4G  mobile network for the use of ambulance, fire and police services across the UK, replacing a private terrestrial-trunked radio (Tetra) network currently well in use but coming to the end of its life.

One contract on the three-lot framework has already been awarded to Kellogg, Brown and Root. The contracts for Lot 2, for the supply of end-to-end systems integration for the ESN, and Lot 3, for the supply of the enhanced mobile network itself, have yet to be formally announced.

However, with Motorola controversially the only bidder remaining on Lot 2, and EE on Lot 3, the final awards are not expected to be a surprise.

The enhanced mobile network will enable officers to “access key police databases, take mobile fingerprints and electronic witness statements and stream live body-worn video, all while on the move”, the government said.

At least £74m of the ESMCP funding will come from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), with the intention of ensuring that fire and rescue services could also benefit from the latest mobile technology.

The announcement came alongside further help to improve police efficiency by cutting the cost of police procurement by up to £350m, and encouraging more collaboration across the UK’s disparate police forces and other public and emergency services. The ESMCP contracts could be worth up to £1.2bn over their lifetime.

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A great way to appropriate funds, improve the ability for emergency personnel to respond and do their jobs while on the move. The concern I have that is what happens if the networks are clogged on any given day/night and the emergency personnel cannot get or send data as needed. Are these personnel going to be using mobile phones and standard phone carriers? If they are on the same network as the public, then when and if there is a chance the data cannot be sent/obtained in an emergency. Maybe the monies should be appropriated to proprietary devices and a separate communication server system. As it's sensitive data, their own system means maintaining security.

Another thought, if the devices will contain their own databases, then uploading will take time and location testing. If a shift ends for a group of police officers and as they near their station, the entire shift starts to upload shift's work maybe with lots of video or images, the performance could be ripe for crashes. Proper planning and appropriation of funds will be necessary.
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