The Home Office has said it will take an incremental approach to the roll out of the Emergency Services Network (ESN), following a review of the programme that came after a series of criticisms of its progress.
It said the ESN, which will replace the Airwave communications network for emergency services, will provide data serves from early next year, with voice capabilities to follow at a so far unspecified later data.
The change will also enable emergency services free to test and choose which ESN products they want as and when they become available, rather than waiting for the network to be fully implemented.
Products will include a ‘push to talk’ capability for mobile phones – which will effectively turn them into emergency services radios with data capability – a package of telephone, messaging and data services, and an air to ground communications apps.
ESN also has the potential to enable emergency services to communicate on the London Underground.
Talking with partners
The Home Office said it is talking with its main commercial partners for the network. EE is responsible for providing enhanced radio access with nationwide coverage, and Motorola for the delivery of the user services contract, providing systems integration and public safety functionality.
The department added that it will provide further details to Parliament in due course, and reiterated the forecast that the ESN will save £200 million per year in public money when it has been implemented.
This comes after the programme has been beset by difficulties that have slowed its progress and prompted warnings from the National Audit Office and Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee that it would not meet its timetable to be fully operational by the end of next year.
In April of this year there was a change of leadership for the programme with Bryan Clark, former digital director of the Prison Service, taking charge. A few weeks before that the first successful demonstration of the network had taken place.
Picture from Scott Davidson (modified), CC 2.0 via flickr