What is ESN?

The UK’s emergency services rely on critical communications between personnel in their control rooms and those in the field.

These communications are currently provided through a series of contracts that cover 105 emergency services in Great Britain as well as 307 other public sector organisations. These contracts are due to expire in 2019.

In 2011, the UK government set up the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) to examine the various options available when the contracts expire. The programme’s objectives are to replace the current service with one that matches it in all respects, but at a lower cost, whilst making high-speed data more readily available to the emergency services to improve their performance and provide greater flexibility to take advantage of emerging new technologies. 

The government’s chosen option to replace the current Airwave service is known as the Emergency Services Network (ESN). The current plan is that the emergency services will start moving onto the new network in September 2018 and are due to complete this process in December 2020.



The UK will be the first in the world to deliver critical voice and data for emergency services over an enhanced and more resilient commercial 4G network.

200,000 users

Hundreds of thousands of staff from the police, fire and ambulance services will use ESN and benefit from its highly resilient data services.


Built on EE’s commercial network, ESN will provide wide geographical coverage including rural and special coverage locations, out to sea and air-to-ground.

When will ESN come into place?

As of March 2018, ESN has been delayed twice, with the official date for its completion currently remaining at the end of 2019, the Home Office has admitted that it can no longer accurately predict the timetable.

Sir Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary, has reiterated that ESN is a complicated project and that the Airwave system will initially operate in parallel.

“Progress is being made, some very good progress in a number of areas."

Sir Rutman has also stated that the extensions to EE’s network to cover the areas needed by ESN were on schedule, as are the required software and infrastructure development to ESN in the London Underground.

Unlocking new possibilities

Despite being impacted by delays, the network promises to harness the power of technology for improved productivity and efficiency, ultimately enabling the emergency services to protect and save more lives, reduce crime and create even safer communities. 

From body worn cameras streaming live video into the control room to biometric scanning against databases at the scene of an incident, the new network will pave the way for new and exciting changes to the way the emergency services are able to operate. 

Though the network promises change, the fundamental tools remain the same –  the ability to provide up-to-date information, to the right resources, at the right time, over a secure and reliable network is critical in delivering emergency services to keep the public safe. These foundations continue to be the priorities throughout the transition to ESN and beyond.  

ESN has the potential to facilitate an abundance of innovative new mobile technologies for the benefit of the emergency services and those they serve. Other innovations are also developing separate to ESN, albeit with still huge operational benefit to these organisations.

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We're getting ready...

Our software is the first to be officially certified to support ESN. To find out more about Cortex and its accreditation by the Network Approval Testing Service (NATS), click the link below.

The NATS endorsement – a critical element of the requirements to operate on the new Emergency Services Network (ESN) – provides emergency services organisations with assurance and confidence in APD as a software supplier in pole position to support the blue light sector as it undergoes this communications revolution.

Join our Community...

Our Community is a place to get together and talk all things critical comms. As a member, you can get involved in discussion boards specifically about ESN to ask questions, share documents and post updates. This is a customer resource, but if you'd like to find out more just get in touch.