The Spending Review and Autumn Statement was delivered to Parliament today and included £1 billion to be spent on 4G communications for the police and other emergency services.
Known as ESN (Emergency Services Network) the new 4G network is designed to allow police officers and other emergency services personnel to undertake more tasks away from the office, enabling them to spend more time in the field and ultimately saving the taxpayer money.
According to Chancellor George Osborne, who delivered the Spending Review, “The Spending Review invests nearly £1 billion in the next generation of 4G communications network for the Emergency Services which will enable officers to access key police databases, take mobile fingerprints and electronic witness statements and stream live body worn video – all whilst on the move. This critical national infrastructure will free up officers’ time, save the taxpayer around £1 million a day when fully operational and connect all emergency services on the same broadband network for the first time.”
4G network provider EE has apparently won the contract for the new service, which will gradually replace Airwave, the current purpose-built national radio system that was set up in 2000. Airwave serves around 300,000 police and fire crew but is thought to be too costly and unable to provide services such as video streaming that the emergency service find valuable. The new ESN will be hosted on EE’s existing 4G infrastructure and will be ready for use during 2017. Emergency services will gradually migrate to the new network and the Airwave system is due to be switched off in 2020.
The bidding process for the network was controversial as all bidders other than EE dropped out for reasons of technical difficulties and short timescales. O2, EE’s main competitor, dropped out earlier in the year following its acquisition by Hutchinson, the owner of the Three network.
In line with this development, EE has announced a number of new mobile technologies such as Connected Vehicle, which will allow police and emergency services vehicles to become wireless hotspots that a variety of devices can be connected to, and the 4GEE Capture Cam, a wearable camera that will allow live streaming of high definition video. The network is already working with Staffordshire Police and estimates that deploying 4G services could save this particular force 250,000 front-line staff hours per year, which equates to around 100 officers on the beat.
According to Olaf Swantee, CEO of EE, “We’ve shown what 4G can do for consumers, and now businesses and the public sector are using the quality and reliability of the network that we’ve built to boost the UK economy and tackle some of the biggest issues facing Britain today. The impact of 4G adoption on vital UK services is incredibly powerful. Helping the NHS and Emergency Services provide better service to the community, more cost effectively, is exactly the type of real world benefit that our world-leading mobile network enables. That’s why we’re launching our new capabilities for these sectors and helping them prepare for the IoT future where everything is connected.”