back to article Who fancies a billion-quid bonanza? Just flog the Home Office some shiny walkie-talkies

The UK Home Office is touting a mega contract worth up to £1.2bn to build a next-generation comms network for Blighty's brave emergency services. Led by the Crime and Policing Group, under the auspices of the Emergency Services Mobile Communications programme, the new system must provide voice calls and wireless broadband …


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  1. HKmk23


    Satellite phones all round

    1. Frederic Bloggs

      Re: Easy-peasy

      Nah... no in-building or underground coverage. Crack that and you are in with a shout though.

    2. Terry Barnes

      Re: Easy-peasy

      Round Trip Delay on calls between two satellite devices renders them barely usable. Try conferencing three or more people together and you may as well give up.

  2. Flawless101

    This will be completely successful, and will come under in under time and budget.

    1. Frederic Bloggs

      Just like the current one.

    2. Amorous Cowherder

      Also better warn the Bentley garages to prepare for a lot of owners of sub-contract companies putting in orders!

    3. Mark Major

      RE: This will be completely successful, and will come under in under time and budget.

      I laughed so hard, I cried *weep*.

      It always seems like half a dozen smart and motivated people could do a better job than any of the massive companies that get these types of contracts. NHS data sharing, BBC archiving system, failed, failed, etc. Obviously, more people for rollout and support - but the solutions would be solid if created by a team of half a dozen good brains - compared to whatever corporate blah actually goes on and ruins these things.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RE: This will be completely successful, and will come under in under time and budget.

        Having been the other side of the fence; a serious problem is often requirements and scope changing significantly after the project has started. Bizarre specs written by inexpert people who feel they need to justify their salary and the time they spend interfering and get very angry when they're questioned. Requests to incorporate the functionality of some obsolete nonsense running on a DEC VAX that no-one left alive actually understands.

        If these big companies were taking the piss, they'd be sued. If they were incompetent, they'd be sued. That they're not generally being sued should tell you something about where the blame often lays for failure.

        It's impossible to quote a fixed price for a piece of work with an incomplete or changing spec, so companies work on a time and materials basis. That can tend to reduce the incentive on the contractor to apply focus and efficiency.

        My advice then would be to get a handful of people who know their stuff (not the bloke in the department who knows a bit about Linux) to write the spec and finalise it. Go out to market on that spec and stick to it. Later changes become a new piece of work. Unfashionable in this age of agile development, but waterfall methodology was introduced for sound reasons and it works.

        1. Matt 21

          Re: RE: This will be completely successful, and will come under in under time and budget.

          On top of those problems there's a change of government or a new minister who wants to make a name for themselves. They play around with the requirement, directly or indirectly, then claim they've saved a load of money while the real result if an unusable and expensive mess

      2. NeilMc

        Re: RE: This will be completely successful, and will come under in under time and budget.

        Like many on this forum I have been on the other side of such Govt Contracts.

        The issues always seem to be

        are poor requirements specifications by the client.

        cheap as chips penny pinching / contracting

        zero accountability in Govt once the contract is signed

        constant changing of the specification once the contract is signed

        constant rewrites of specifications, pricing and contracts as the cycles of change hit the project

        NAO comes in waves big stick cos £millions has been spent for zero benefit

        Govt soils itself and underlings get side ways moves

        Minister, secretaries and Civil Service Grandee's dodge yet another bullet

        the contract is cancelled

        the supplier is pillaried, tarred and feathered and blacklisted from future contracts

        Govt / Civil Service allow dust to settle

        and then the whole cycles starts all over again....

        The single biggest contributors to this cycle of waste is that the Govt bites off more than it can deliver and the Govt departments that contract for these services try and buy a solution that is future proof rather than incrementally improving things......

        Contracting 20 years into the future when we are looking at such rapid and disruptive change is foolish at best and irrelevant at worst.

  3. Truth4u

    I bet David Icke could make some money off this

    His followers already believe TETRA is a network of secret mind control towers. Surely he could cash in on the new system too?

  4. Gordon 10

    Please dont ask

    Crapita to tender, please please please please.

    Though given the companies they have Borged have a decent share of the Emergency Comms market I suspect Im wishful thinking.

  5. Rich 2 Silver badge


    See you all in a couple of years then when we can all discuss why the costs have risen to 5 billion and the thing STILL doesn't work.

  6. stefan 5

    Whats wrong with tetra? works doesn't it? Cant see the problem

    1. James Pickett

      "Whats wrong with tetra?"

      Just about everything, IIRC. Although they may have got it working properly by now, which is obviously the precise moment to change it... :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      People are now used to smartphones, and are wanting similar functionality (GPS, bluetooth, maps etc.) as well as the rugged and secure nature of the current Tetra kit. When the last contract was tendered the comms world was very different.

      Secure and trusted 'apps' would allow different organisations to customize their offerings to their users, or even allow multi-agency (think the Olympics - Army, Police, Ambulance, Fire brigade and goodness knows who else) working far more easily - the current kit sometimes means people needing access to several radios in which to communicate with a different organisation.

      Don't forget that different organisations use their comms kit in many different ways and the new stuff must be as flexible at least - as well as being secure (it will be interesting to see what influence GCHQ/NSA will have in this) and the politics will cause a lot of headaches I'm sure.

  7. i like crisps

    I've got a cunning plan...

    ...i've got some old tin cans and sting lying around. If i spray them silver and paint a big letter "i" on them i think i'll probably be in with a chance to blag the cash!

    1. James Anderson

      Re: I've got a cunning plan...

      Sounds a more expensive option than a bottom of the line Nokia

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The biggest issue

    with TETRA is that on the Motorola handsets at least, you can't actually transmit a point-to-point call whilst someone else is transmitting on your host network, or the network of the receiver.

    A massive, massive pain in the ass and also fairly dangerous when you can't get direct comms to your neighbour because some fat fuck controller is bleating away like an idiot with no VP skills at all.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I seemed to recall TETRA is on a 30 year support contract.

    So what happened to that?

  10. chris 17 Silver badge

    Around 2004 the AirWave project was started to provide a modern communication system for the Emergency Services.

    It provides 3G communications using dedicated masts as well as on O2.

    Its still running.

    AirWave was the upgrade to TETRA.

    Why don't they just upgrade AirWave to 4G?

    1. AndyFl

      " Why don't they just upgrade AirWave to 4G?"

      Lots of reasoms, first is LTE doesn't support multicast which you need for efficient group calls. This will only be fixed in rel12 which will not be out for a couple of years. There is also the issue of handsets and a properly tested voice system, they don't even have VoLTE handsets in the market yet.

      Then there is terminal security - a bog standard Android install is not good enough for security agencies.

      Ask the question in 3 years and you might get a better answer.


  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The smart thing to do would be to use this govt. spend to kick-start 5G, giving the blue-light services priority on connections to masts and the backhaul. Easy enough with info on the SIM card.

    However the bizzies will demand an entirely seperate network infrastructure, then wonder why the coverage and service is terrible. IIRC the data bandwidth to Airwave terminals is 4kbps

  12. oceanexplorer


    Having been a user of Airwave on a regular basis I can tell you it is crap! It has patchy coverage even outdoors, little or no coverage indoors and has had blackouts in the past. For some stupid reason contracts are agreed on a fixed limit basis, much like your phone contract, you get a set amount of texts and calls. It has been said the penalty for going over the limits was £2 a second! It was a typical PFI deal with Airwave making £170 Million a year profit with ROI close to 45%.

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