Avon trial reveals limits of £2.9bn police Tetra network

Avon and Somerset Constabulary will end a trial of mobile data technology in March, with no plans to resume until it has overcome the limitations of the £2.9bn Tetra police voice and data network.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary will end a trial of mobile data technology in March, with no plans to resume until it has overcome the limitations of the £2.9bn Tetra police voice and data network.

The police force had been trialling the O2 Airwave Tetra network as a way of reducing return trips to police stations by giving officers access to the Police National Computer (PNC) and the electoral register from their cars.

When the national roll-out of Tetra was completed in 2005, these were the types of applications that Home Office minister Caroline Flint expected to run on the network. "Airwave will cut bureaucracy by freeing up front-line officer time - they will not have to go back to the office to file data," she said.

However, Ian Steel, project manager for mobile information systems at Avon and Somerset Constabulary, said the force would take stock when its trial ends in March, in part to assess performance issues.

"There has already been an internal review, which has been fed into the project board and has been used to slow down [the project] so we can take stock of proper direction for other applications," he said.

Although Tetra had been promoted as a voice and data network, using data applications while the voice channel was busy was impractical, Steel said.

Also, access to the PNC and voters' register were not in themselves enough to cut the need for trips back to police stations, he said. "Those applications are not enough to keep officers out on the street."

The police force has been working with supplier Arqiva to explore solutions, including having two Tetra radios in each car or using an alternative GPRS network for data-intensive applications.

The Police Information Technology Organisation, which led the Tetra procurement for the UK police service, said Tetra was similar to GSM and GPRS networks in that it could not handle voice and data simultaneously.

"Alternating voice and IP means that if the radio terminal is engaged in a voice call it will suspend the IP connection and automatically re-establish once the call is completed," a spokeswoman said.

"It is a matter of changing business practices to be able to use the system efficiently."

Related story: Welsh ambulances adopt Tetra

www.tetramou.com

Comment on this article: computer.weekly@rbi.co.uk


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