Secure for now at Airwave

Telecoms & Financial Services, Airwave

Further delays to the rollout of the new emergency services network system which will ultimately replace the current radio wave-based Tetra network mean that members in Airwave enter the New Year with no immediate threat to the work they do.

The first stage of an already delayed staged switch-on of the new network was supposed to happen in September this year – but there is still no sign of that happening amid indications that the reliability of the new 4G-based network has not yet been 100 per cent proven.

Assistant secretary John East explains: “Although the three-year Government contract for the new system, which was awarded to EE, is already running it’s clearly the case that the new network is not yet ready.

“A major hurdle is ensuring network coverage across the whole of the UK, including in existing mobile ‘not spots’. Add to that the problems of ensuring priority for emergency services and continuity of coverage on a public network.

“In any major emergency network congestion becomes an issue and it is one that will have to be solved before the new system goes operational.

“The existing Tetra network, by comparison, suffers no such problems – being a bespoke service for the emergency services only – and covers 99 per cent of the country.

“When the rollout to the system does commence it will be done in a phased way – first one fire or ambulance service will go live and only once the technology is proven will the main rollout begin.

“The really crucial test will be one of the big metropolitan police services – and you can be sure that they won’t be the first to try out the new system.

“As such, there’s clearly still a long way to go before the Tetra network will be switched off – so whereas we were very worried about the future of Airwave when the Government served notice on the emergency services contract, especially prior to its acquisition by Motorola, at the moment there’s no indication whatsoever that the work currently conducted by our members will disappear anytime soon.

“On top of that, our members at Airwave now know they are part of a much larger company which has many other contracts, providing other potential workstreams down the line.”