The Home Office is continuing its discussions with suppliers around the requirements for the new Emergency Services Network (ESN).
The department has been engaging with suppliers to discuss the four separate parts of the ESN contract, which includes user devices, air-to-ground service and devices, vehicle installation and control room upgrades.
In September 2014, suppliers attended an event held by the Home Office to discuss details of the new ESN ahead of submitting tenders later in the year.
In its latest announcement, the Home Office said contracts would be submitted in the near future and will then be subject to detailed evaluation. Contracts are due to be awarded in 2015 and the new ESN will go live from 2017, as existing contracts expire.
In July 2014, businesses were invited to tender for the network to replace the existing emergency services systems provided by Airwave, which will expire in 2016.
More on emergency services IT
Minister of state for policing, criminal justice and victims Mike Penning said a modernised communications network is vital to helping the emergency services protect the public and save lives.
"We are on track to deliver this critical part of our national infrastructure by 2017,” he said. “We have seen strong interest in providing the ESN and its supporting elements. I am confident the organisations we select will create a communications network that is the best in the world.”
ESN aimed at providing smarter services
The ESN is a Home Office-led, cross-departmental programme that aims to provide cheaper and smarter network services for ambulance, fire and police services. The new contract aims to create an enhanced, flexible and affordable communication system.
The Home Office stated the new network is being developed in close partnership with the emergency services and will add broadband data capabilities that will help save lives.
We have seen strong interest in providing the ESN and its supporting elements
Mike Penning, minister of state for policing, criminal justice and victims
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 Ministry of Defence 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 non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
In the summer of 2014, Computer Weekly asked Airwave's chief operating officer, John Lewis, how he felt about the company's 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.”