Update on the Emergency Services Network, Emergency Services Network Testing and EE’s 4G/5G roll out

The Emergency Services Network: where are we now?

The project to create a £1.2bn 4G Emergency Services Network (ESN), to be run by EE, has been under way for three years, but has run into several delays.

Most recently, the government has said that they would need to extend the lifespan of the current Airwave network contract beyond the planned 2019 shutdown date. The Home Office said it planned to sign a new contract with Motorola to run the network until 31 December 2022.

ESN update at the BAPCO Satellite Series event: November 2018

As further update on the progress of the ESN programme, Becca Jones, Customer Engagement Director for ESN, acknowledged the challenges faced over the last 12 months at industry-leading public safety event, the BAPCO Satellite Series in Newcastle.

She confirmed that the team are now firmly on the path to delivering ESN products and services and are making good progress on completing the infrastructure that will carry ESN. The recent review and reset of the programme was comprehensive, drawing three main conclusions:

  1. ESN is the right strategic choice to replace Airwave – in line with other countries such as the USA and South Korea moving from using non-integrated critical communications to an integrated 4G LTE system.

  2. Delivering ESN in a different way is the best option for the taxpayer by a considerable margin, even after factoring in the extra time needed to develop, build, test and go live with the network. Once operational it will still save around £200 million a year compared to Airwave.

  3. A new approach, incrementally releasing ESN products to the emergency services, will deliver value from those aspects of the service that will be available soonest. ESN will be delivered more effectively, taking an emergency service-centric approach to design, deployment and adoption of products and services.

Emergency Services Network Testing

With regards to testing for ESN, the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) has started testing Emergency Services Network coverage, using its recently-announced solution ESN Assure.

The first phase of testing is currently taking place across England and Wales, using an initial roll out of one hundred mobile devices issued to a variety of different emergency services staff. Assure is an app-based product, developed by telent and specifically designed to test broadband signal coverage.

Speaking of the latest phase of ESN, an ESMCP spokesperson said: "Services staff in the north east, south west, the West Midlands and Wales will now test the new 4G mobile network, provided by EE, from a variety of locations in their areas and feedback the results. Their reports will inform how coverage can be further improved before the programme moves onto the next stage of delivery."

The next stage of the programme will be the pilot of another product known as ESN Connect, which is a SIM-only network data plan designed to provide "fast, secure and reliable data connectivity for vehicles and device-to-device connectivity."

ESN is replacing the TETRA-based Airwave network currently used by the emergency services. The UK Home office believes that the network will ultimately save the taxpayer £200m a year, while also transforming how frontline staff communicate through the use of broadband rather than narrowband.

The latest on EE’s 4G/5G rollout…

EE has announced that it is activating 5G sites in 16 UK cities in 2019. The first launch cities will be the UK’s four capital cities – London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast – and Birmingham and Manchester.

As well as the six launch cities, through 2019 EE will also be introducing 5G across the busiest parts of ten more UK cities: Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol.

The first 1,500 sites that EE is upgrading to 5G in 2019 carry 25% of all data across the whole network, but only cover 15% of the UK population. EE is upgrading transmission to 10Gbps links at each 5G site, and has tested the new links – the fastest in use anywhere in the UK – at its trial sites in Canary Wharf and across East London.

EE is still upgrading 4G sites as part of its overall network strategy, while turning 3G signal into 4G to enable more spectrum for a better network experience. The busiest sites will have five carriers of 4G spectrum supporting the new 5G spectrum, making them the highest speed sites of any UK operator in 2019.

As well as increasing capacity, EE is expanding 4G coverage into rural parts of the UK to give rural communities the coverage and capacity that they need. EE has built more than 350 brand new sites in 2018.

In August, EE was named as the UK’s best network for the 5th year in a row. RootMetrics travelled 20,928 miles, and undertook 593,008 tests (including calls, data and text messages), of all four of the UK networks across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in the first six months of 2018. The company has been testing all UK mobile operators every six months since 2012.

How we can help you with ESN?

Our software is ready for ESN - and so are our teams.

As a supplier of critical, life-saving software used by one in two UK police forces and other emergency services and public safety organisations across the UK and around the world, we’re at the forefront of the transition process to the new ESN LTE network.

Cortex is our software-only Integrated Communication Control System (ICCS) and is used to answer emergency calls and communicate with front line responders in more than 70 control rooms around the world. The software brings radio, telephony, CCTV and access control together on one screen enabling organisations to connect, collaborate and communicate rapidly and effectively.

But it’s not just the technology that can help your organisation transform its control room operations – when you work with the team, you’ll get a wealth of insight and resources in best practice. We run regular user groups and an online community for sharing ideas, raising queries and service cases. We also run regular webinars and workshops which are free to attend.

We’re committed to supporting you through the transition to ESN. Get in touch with us if you’d like to know more - just email us at hello@apdcomms.com or call 01482 808300.