The Home Office has put in place another piece of the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) in a deal with Telent Technology Services.
It has awarded the company a £10.3 million contract for testing coverage of the Emergency Services Network (ESN), due to come into operation over the next 18 months.
The deal covers a handful of services for autonomous, unattended testing of the 4G network’s coverage, including the provision of an off-the-shelf application to collect relevant data, with the ability to handle up to 150 user accounts and 50 simultaneous log-ins with access to all the software analysis and reporting functions.
It will involve development of the application for ESN testing, drive and walk test services, the provision of a helpdesk, a training service and full reporting function.
The award notice also points to three optional services from the company: the provision of up to 1,000 4G devices; a hosting service on its own servers or on a UK based cloud; and voice testing using perceptual objective listening quality analysis (POLQA).
The services will be available to a group of prime stakeholders in the programme, including the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Department of Health and Social Care.
The deal provides some renewed momentum for the development of ESN, which has been running several months behind an already revised schedule. This has led to warnings that it will not deliver the expected savings within the originally expected timeframe.
In September the Home Office announced a more incremental approach to its roll out following a review of the programme, with data services becoming available early next year and voice services to follow.
A recent review by the National Audit Office pointed to a need to improve the management of some key risks, including the programme’s approach to technical assurance and testing, as covered by the new contract.
The Home Office is not forcing emergency services to move to the ESN but has assured them it can stay on the predecessor Airwave service until the new network is “at least as good”. The auditor said that defining this is complex and leaves room for disagreement.
Telent joins the two prime contractors for the ESN: EE is building the infrastructure and Motorola providing user services.
Picture from Scott Davidson (modified), CC 2.0 via flickr