I tell you what smacks of Trolleyism, linking to a site with no information on it whatsoever that wants an email address and your Twitter credentials before it'll tell you what it is!
In less than 18 months' time the police radio network will be switched off. There is no obvious replacement and the looming omnishambles is turning into a bonanza for Arqiva, the only company brave enough to offer a solution. Peter Neyroud CBE, former head of the National Policing Improvement Agency and now at the University …
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Switch to 4G? Don't these people ever look beyond the UK's borders? Even in 1st world countries like the US & Japan, cell systems go down in emergencies. 911, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Tōhoku earthquake tsunami (also caused the Fukashima meltdown) ... Anyone relying on the cell system was SOL. Often for days, in some places weeks or even months.
Obviously, no major disasters could ever happen in the UK, so no problem.
Probably not. Most of the time they don't look beyond Westminster's borders. If you need proof, ask yourself (and them) why they're only just thinking about Not-Spots. The fact that there's a General Election coming up is nowt to do with it of course.
That can be true, but not with all mobile carriers to my knowledge - during Katrina where the entire city was under water and winds got up to 120 mph I can see it but would any other service hold in that? Or an earthquake on the 7 richter scale where mobile towers and underground cable may be damaged? Is there a better solution I am unaware of?
We have had the 3G and 4G combination for at least 6 years now. Depending on where one lives will be dependant on which mobile service works best for you. Verizon works best over all because they have the most towers and cables (I guess) and Verizon is the opnly service that works in the Rocky Mountains areas - but some other services are starting to now because they pay "rent" to use their towers - then the customer may be billed for "roaming" charges.
Here, they advertise 4G as "faster for Internet use for videos, searching the web, etc" - but personally I haven't seen any difference with my own service speeding up because of it. The less expensive mobile carriers are always going to be a bit slower than the most expensive - until a law is passed that disallows the narrowing of bandwidth a "renter" can us.
However, for myself: who does use my mobile for Facebook, watching videos aor television, etc., I am satisfied with paying $50.00 for unlimited talk/text and 2 GB of Internet use to receive important email, use Siri to get information or direction, or to perhaps do the occasion odd bit of price comparison.
MY CONCERN is that our governments may (require) these new shut down features on phones NOT so that thieves can be traced; but so governments have a way to shut down all towers in case of rebellion. If you recall it was cell phone transmissions that let the world know the reality of what was happening in Egypt a few year ago. Now THAT is definitely something to be concerned about.
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thank you. I did quite a lot of work on it, although limited to the base-stations/repeaters design/build rather than handsets..
One issue with the article - it claims Airwave used to be O2 which is not quite correct. It was actually originally a consortium of BT Cellnet and Securicor Data Systems (based in Chippenham, of all places) and somebody else that I can't remember (it was a long, long time ago).
Cellnet became mmO2 which became O2 and Securicor became Sunguard. I don't think Sunguard exist anymore either.
Why not just change the supplier. TETRA is a worldwide open standard, it doesn't have to come from any one company. And why 4G? Are the police going to be surfing youtube in their free time or something? All this system needs to do is voice, text alerts and location tracking. Thats it. That sort of digital tech has been around since the 80s.
> Maps and building plans are useful to the police but essential to fire services.
First of all thank you for the very good article. Having been a volunteer firefighter, I don't understand the requirement for online maps or building plans for fire services however. If you are on the attacking team, you will want *many* and *highly reliable* voice channels to communicate with the standby team and the command post. The command post may have a use for maps but then they sit in a lorry in the no-danger zone: They can *reliably* have the maps/plans on an offline medium such as a rugged hard drive. And they can (and probably will) guide you as they have the time to look up plans and think about ways of attack. In my (limited) experience, you don't have that time on the ground.
IMHO, most projects in this area are much too ambitious regarding "luxury" targets and forget the basics: It needs to work no matter what the environment conditions, how many users there are and what is the nature of the chaos around you. Streaming back video to the command post might be nice, but - again IMHO - is rather useless as the team inside is going to make most tactical decisions on its own based on what it sees, hears, smells and measures. We are trained for this and mainly need the channel to the CP to ask for reinforcements, supplies etc.
I've worked on Tetra handsets, its a good standard, does all the weird stuff the emergency services want, like mini basestations, walkie-talkie etc. Given that it was replacing analogue narrowband comms it had to use a very narrow bandwidth, so would never do video streaming. Tetra+ was an attempt to increase BW by using fancy 64QAM (or somesuch), but was never really going to work outside the lab.
So why not simply couple it to a GSM/3G/4G whatever phone, which duplicates the comms both for archiving and for diversity (fail-over to non-Tetra) - and allows SMS and multimedia when available.
Indeed, why not use 2 batteries 2 mics 2 speakers, like sellotaping together a Nokia and an existing Tetra handset.
I was thinking that. Unless you're sending photos or video 7kbit/sec should be sufficient.
If they were equipping the police with live helmet cams or drone downlinks or something like that then it could make sense to use 4G. But why would you tie a power-sucking frivolity like that to the officer's main method of communication?
Roger that. If they need fast data rates why can't that be an additional 4G/WiFi handset alongside the Tetra radio? Heck if you retrofit the Tetra with a Bluetooth modem the 4G handset can use Tetra for slow rate comms when the 4G/WiFi connection is unavailable.
@Ben Liddicott: I second that. The common sense route would be to have reliable voice plus secondary potentially flakey data transmission rather than make both shite. The last thing you want in an emergency like an armed incident is a PC calling for backup like something out of a Dom Jolly sketch.
They want to be able to send more information between officers, for example, someone gets stabbed on the highstreet, this is caught by CCTV, it would save a lot of confusion, time and money if a picture of the perp could be sent directly to all officers devices quickly and reliably.
The reason for 4G over 3G is that 4G will (may) have multiple layers of priority for different traffic, e.g. a stabbing would take priority over someone with a missing cat.
Unfortunately the TETRA standard only covers the interface between the TETRA network and the TETRA handsets/devices. Internally (i.e. in between the TETRA switches) the TETRA network uses vendor-specific, proprietary interfaces. So you'll need to rip out all your TETRA switches and replace them with new gear supporting the required functionality. Nicely played by the TETRA vendors!
As why change the system said, nothing wrong with TETRA, but of course the buyers know nothing and the sellers are bullsh#tting.....typical civil service contract negotiation...the blind being led by the crooked. Glad I am out of it all now.
I certainly wouldn't want to be the Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) of the ESN project/network the first time a policeman dies because he couldn't get backup on his radio!!! I'm not sure the 4G radio network operator would want the reputational damage either!
"You mean like this?"
Funnily enough, exactly like that ;)
"IIRC, aviation types actually use the shorter "affirm" for yes, precisely so that it can't be confused with "negative" if the start gets truncated and all you hear is "...ative"."
If all you hear is "...ative" and you make no attempt to ask for the message to be repeated you almost deserve to be at the Hague.
Not for nothing but last time I used good old analog military radio frequencies "rodger" or the ever popular "wilco" was still in fashion which sounds nothing like negative. I really do hope our radio comms haven't been replaced with Americanisations in the name of lets all work together because it's the yankees who have this wrong, much like their salutes :)
"What's wrong with putting an audible tone in the software when the thing is ready to transmit on the network? "
Because of unintended consequences.
If the tone is long people will wait before it finishes before speaking.
If the tone is short people will miss it and not speak at all.
It requires the user to hold the device to their ear when they're planning on transmitting.
It creates an opportunity for audio feedback.
If the 'ready' tone is picked up by the mic and transmitted another party may hear it and presume they're good to speak.
A red light would be a better option that trying to signal transmission readiness through audio.
What's wrong with putting an audible tone in the software when the thing is ready to transmit on the network?
You've got it backwards according to how most people would react - the tone should be there until communication is established so that when it goes quiet, they're free to speak, just as happens in normal conversation.
Motorola's had that in the trunked radios in the US for a while now. Push the button and either get a long tone saying its not connected or a short chirp that it is and you can talk. Also, why put everything on one device? Radio for talking and communicating, phone or tablet with 4G for data. Spread out the points of failure and such...
There's a maybe brief latency before your selcall channel is established but once it's open the latency is basically zero in an analogue setup.
There's a world of difference between that and a whatever-over-IP cellular technology where stuff is coded, packetised, transmitted, received, routed, transmitted again, received again, error-corrected, decoded and eventually heard by the recipient.
Conventional analogue radios can also miss all or part of a transmission when it is "stepped on" by another transmitter. Something happens suddenly and unexpectedly (e.g. a gunshot), and 10 people all press their PTT at once, for example, resulting in none of the messages being heard. The example of "Don't shoot" being heard as "Shoot" can happen pretty much regardless of the system in use, and is best overcome by the use of formalised words and phrases chosen to greatly minimise the chance of wrong message interpretation due to indistinct or intermittent communication. The aviation sector as well as the military makes extensive use of such standard phraseology, as an example. Long words are less likely to get lost or misunderstood than short words - hence "negative" and "affirmative" instead of "yes" and "no"
"Conventional analogue radios can also miss all or part of a transmission when it is "stepped on" by another transmitter."
Indeed - and for a real world example of this, air tragedy at Tenerife would have been avoided if the PanAm flight's "We're still on the runway!!!" transmission had been heard by the KLM flight or the tower.
"There's a maybe brief latency before your selcall channel is established"
Unless the CTCSS/Selcall tones are bounced through a number of base stations.
I was involved in a lot of design/rollout stuff in rural areas in the mid 80s and it got discovered the hard way that passing through more than 2 repeaters often led to entire sentences being lost (There wasn't enough tech at the time to capture/delay the audio path at each hop). Dealing with firms who wanted to run a 2-way system across hundreds of miles in rough terrain and shared channels posed all sorts of challenges in delivering reliable end-to-end comms
This was one of the drivers towards the development of tetra systems in the first place.
The first 1920s police radio technology needed a second or so to start up, so the meaningless number "10" was prefixed to the actual message code number as wasted space
Perhaps all we need is for copies of Smokey and the Bandit to be issued to all police officers?
10-4 good buddy .....
'is still regarded with suspicion by anyone making strategic Telco decisions and has been described Michael Hayden, a former head of the CIA and the NSA as an “unambiguous national security threat”'
We only took this slightly seriously *before* we found out the *real* "unambiguous national security threat" is the NSA. Now it's some sort of funny joke. There's strong evidence against the NSA and *none* against Huawei, we in the UK should take their investments with open arms. Cautious, evidence-based open arms, but open arms all the same.
Huawei almost certainly is considered a national security threat by the NSA/GCHQ because they don't have influence over them so can't add exploitable bugs/backdoors to their kit.
Whether Huawei adds such features for the Chinese security services is another issue but why would we expect the Chinese security services to be behave differently to the Americans/British?
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of what the security services are doing, I think that when you're buying critical infrastructure for your emergency services, it's entirely sensible to restrict the potential vendors to the ones who are open with your security services.
"There's strong evidence against the NSA and *none* against Huawei,"
I might not trust that yanks further than I could throw a fat one, but I trust them a lot more than I trust the chinese. If the chinese government "suggests" to a chinese electronics CEO to put backdoors in his products, do you really think he can refuse?
"If the chinese government "suggests" to a chinese electronics CEO to put backdoors in his products, do you really think he can refuse?"
So you're saying that if the US government asked a US business man to put back-doors in his comms network and he refused - they wouldn't take away all the business from him that they could and make sure that he ended up in goal?
Back in my days... Motorola radios have nifty features like
"Public Safety Mic" - must still work while radio is being swung around by the microphone cord.
"Man down switch" - when radio detects the person carrying it is on the ground it automatically opens up a channel to control.
We also demoed live video feed from a police motorcycle mounted unit while tests were being carried out in Jersey.
Or the old MetPol Storno-500 series (which I spent quite a bit of time in the 1980s repairing)
Nice heavy diecast case and big battery-pack. Robust enough that you could use it to render a mugger unconscious and it'd still work well enough to let you call for backup.
I'be been a soldier and I'm now a cop. A soldier needs lots of data, a standard cop does not. We already have PDAs which have various data capabilities for completing reporta etc. Not sure if it can be expanded to provide more such as a PNC mugshot of someone we're after though.
I have never spoken to another agency on airwave though I believe the fire service can hop on it if they need to, but again. They would need the channel keys to join our talkgroup. ACR will relay any relevant messages or updates.
Did you know that during the CWG all standard officers involved were instructed to have their handsets off due to the costs? It was also believed that if everyone had logged on then it would've crashed from the load.
Airwave works fine otherwise apart from not getting a signal in the high flats where I really need it.
Oh, you also can't point someone if someone else is transmitting. What a pain.
I'm an emergency manager, and what you're saying is absolutely correct. First responders cannot be inundated with information they don't need. What the EOC needs is not what you need on the ground, you need to know what's going on in your area, what hazards are present, the current disposition of the civilians in the area, if there are any special considerations like Hazmat contamination, etc.
I was a Soldier too, in both the Active and Reserve Components before I "retired" (Warrant Officers never retire completely) and went into the field. I've got a few informed opinions on the basic emergency preparedness and response issues in the UK and ill be posting a rant about it below. You guys really need the political will to get a modern comprehensive emergency management system. And I don't see any political party making it a priority, neither the Conservatives, Labour, LibDems or even the Kippers have an overhaul of the UK's Emergency Preparedness and Response doctrine as a part of their platforms.
It is not just the statutory services that need to be considered.
They are supposed to be used by the voluntary services, e.g. Red Cross, Mountain Rescue, St. John, Lowland search etc but the sheer cost of the units and the "fleece the taxpayer" billing system that Airwave impose (take the maximum use on a day in that month and multiply by 30 for the monthly fee) does not work well for part time services. That's to say nothing of the complexity of use where some calls are assigned by text and you have to navigate a menu to indicate your receipt and compliance, not easy for very occasional users compared to a PTT on a conventional hand held VHF/UHF.
Much of your rescuing is likely to be done by smaller organisations in the future, and if you want them all to be able to talk to each other, then a less expensive option is going to be required.
The cost (ex factory gate) of a TETRA radio is under £600 and not much different from a high-end SmartPhone... when you consider the engineering quality that has to go in to one of these radios to make it "squaddy proof" and work for extended periods along with the security, encryption, etc. its not bad value for money.
The problem is NOT the Tetra technology but the expensive Airwave service behind it! Hence, it might be that Arqiva could run it better and for less ;-)
As with many thing in life "its only the profit that makes it expensive" ...
Clearly you don't actually know how much a TETRA hand held radio actually costs. Around £400 to £500 for a specially designed ( for mission critical use) IP67 rated ruggedised terminal. Also the comments on how usage and billing is calculated are completely incorrect. Until an MNO provides an apples for apples comparison in terms of service availability, resilience, security and coverage, comments about Airwaves cost are irrelevant.
The 4G decision looks stoopid from so many angles.
As mentioned Tetra seems to work for most of the use cases apart from the data rate. Needless to say if they *really* need image type data then the new handsets are going to need a battery sucking screen to view it.
It seems to make far more sense to offload any high bandwidth needs to a separate device.
How many spare batteries will be needed? Whats the operating time of an Airwave handset now?
"I would assume that any design would have standard power saving functionality such as powering down everything that is not currently in use, so a screen would only take additional power when the user needs to use it."
You've never tried to use a personal DAB radio for a whole shift have you.
Well Airwave.Next is going to be worse, given that it's not just all digital, it also needs to transmit (presumably, like GSM, even when not in calls or in data exchanges) as well as receive.
It does seem a mess, although when the tetra system came in I do recall lots of problems and it is far from perfect now.
While it appears clear the Emergency Services need a 'special' can they not be given a 4G Smartphone in the meantime for non-immeadiate communications, and then would not Apps be devolopable (with appropiate security) to give them one to many in a given cell? or even take over cell(s) for emergencys? tough on normal users but it is an emergency, right?
In any event like 9/11 cell phones had problems - Wireless Amateurs filled the gap - is that being planned for?
If all else fails there is the option to utilise the Amateur VHF/UHF frequencies via the volunteer RAYNET organization, so you will see dusty UHF/VHF transceivers in the corner of most Police Control Rooms and Council Emergency Planning Rooms. Unfortunately it takes hours to get a RAYNET operation up and running, so barring a tsunami striking and taking out the mobile towers and power grid (but not any of the numerous coastal nuclear power stations) their unlikely to be called on. Then again it appears the Gov is keeping this option open: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/09/15/radio_hams_can_encrypt_in_emergencies_says_ofcom/
Speaking of which -- The lingering, darkly ominous accusations against Huawai by various Animals of High Couleur are of the same QUALITY TRUTHFULNESS as the accusations against North Korea concerning hacking of an obscure part-japanese company, made by The President Who Was Robbed of His X-Mas Viewing Pleasure and His Extraordinary Three-Letter-Agency Circus.
Can we have some proof? Meanwhile, I will continue to check for NSA deposits in my CRISCO router.
...is the service provider, not the underlying tech.
A TETRA service could be provided which meets the services' needs, with higher bandwidth using TEDS, and TETRA provides a level of security out of the box which 4G doesn't.
The user community needs to pick a good service provider and negotiate well...
...unfortunately those two skills seem to elude government procurement personnel
What about all or part of Band II? Seems to be a reasonable frequency band, probably sufficient bandwidth for the "extras", could be used together with the exiting TETRA band to give better coverage, Gets rid of a useless obsolete and unloved BBC project. What's not to like?
Or, if you want the prize for the biggest, wackiest cluster*k ever - give the whole contract to Orange to implement.
I meant band III not band II.
Band II, FM, is the one we need to keep
Although those with greyer beards may well remember listening to the (unencrypted) plod in their cars on around 100 MHz. way back in the 60's. It was just the Beeb Beeb Ceeb on FM in those days. And yes, I can remember the Home Service, Light Programme and Third Programme. Seem to recall we still had the Archers, though. Oh ARRRrrrrrrrrrr....
Anyone else here old and sad enought to remember Walter Gabriel? I think that was the character's name. Poor sod never did get past the first ARRRrrrrrrrr before I turned him off. Always felt sorry for the bloke who had to cough his script.
Sorry - must get back to playing with my EF50s
This article ix bollox. The idea of long latency posultated within is caused by an appliaction starting up and taking a while to establish a connection. Have the application alL ready up and running. Have the connection already established! Have hand-offs from cell to cell (from BTS to BTS because hand-offs can happen within a cell) happen automatically, ok there might be battery life issues here, but I'm sure some approach can be adopted.
"The idea of long latency posultated within is caused by an appliaction starting up and taking a while to establish a connection. Have the application alL ready up and running. Have the connection already established! "
There goes your battery life and all the channel capacity on the system. Apart from that, perfect.
PC pleb doesn't need data calls. All he wants to do is make a voice call to a central Police Force Control Station and be able to have calls routed to colleagues for one-on-one chats.
They can use whatever technology they want for that voice call, GSM, 3G - WCDMA, or 4G using IP over LTE.. I'd suggest 4G approach is inherently risky, it's new, coverage across the country isn't complete and anywhere near as complete as older technologies such as 3G.
Secondly, don't have a private company with shareholders run it! That's public money, our money down the drain. The only time you want to do that is when there's free market competition and you can select your supplier and get the cheapest deal. When there is only one supplier, Airwave, there is no competition.
So either you go for a government funded, developed run system in a not-for-profit kind of way, or you go for open market competition and let the suppliers (more than one) fight over each other to give the cheapest deal.
"PC pleb doesn't need data calls. All he wants to do is make a voice call to a central Police Force Control Station and be able to have calls routed to colleagues for one-on-one chats."
How can you possibly know that? What's your experience in front line policing?
"So either you go for a government funded, developed run system in a not-for-profit kind of way, or you go for open market competition and let the suppliers (more than one) fight over each other to give the cheapest deal."
That's what did happen. There was competitive procurement. Airwave won it. They're a private company but the network is publicly funded by the government. It's would be dangerous to assume that not for profit means cheaper or better - skilled RAN guys cost lots of money to employ.
I have no experience with policing, but I do have military, marine and aviation experience using standard analogue radio communication. In those areas it is a great benefit to be able to hear all the communication taking place on the frequency you are using because it provides a situational awareness that you would otherwise not have. Anyone needing to discuss something in depth that is not of general relevance would temporarily switch to a different frequency for that discussion.
"PC pleb doesn't need data calls. All he wants to do is make a voice call to a central Police Force Control Station and be able to have calls routed to colleagues for one-on-one chats."
Among the many things he needs data service for, is sending GPS/location reports back to command & control to allow him to be tracked
Have you any idea how much paperwork PC Pleb has to do? And then transcribe onto a PC at the office. And then print and fax to the CPS?
PC Pleb could really use a nice, reliable ruggedised laptop and data stick. Would save hours per day. And a car GPS linked to the command and control system like Ambo and Fire have would take minutes off response times.
But don't take away the reliable radio. The last thing your 4ft9 single crew copper needs as the 6ft6 20 stone mental patient kicks off is a radio that needs more than one finger or is slow.
Giving him the excuse to spend even more of the time he should be spending chasing criminals chasing a curser on the screen or trying to swipe the screen with his bullet proof gloves.
And in a somewhat less charitable frame of mind I seem to see Plastic Pleb trying to browse the net left handed while wobbling furiously over the pavement on his regulation issue silly bike with his right paw holding his mobile phone up his left lug.
In this world there seems to be a bunch of "why do we do it like this...." bullshit managers who see every tried and tested solution as being an opportunity to improve efficiency.
Lets not forget the person at the co-op who said "why do we need plastic on the cucumbers, we'll remove that packaging waste" only to realise later on why it was done, the produce went off twice as fast. Cucumbers still have plastic on them now.
To judge by assorted UK disgraces by armed cops (and even worse from liberal use of tasers) "fire discipline" doesn't apply to the cowboys who masquerade as armed policemen. And that's why people use the term "banging away like an armed policeman" in the context of ladies of the night.
Although the title of this sub thread brought this gem to mind:
With the ability to boot "non-emergency" users off the cell system, it might work although, as was pointed out, some of those "non-emergency" users might be victims or other civilians in a position to give useful information to police. Here where I live, emergency services use a trunked radio system with several channels, and it works quite well. When we need a "group" (say all those involved in working a particular incident), users can all simply switch to a particular channel and use that channel exclusively. The technology is fairly old, but works great.
At the same time, police do use cell phones quite a bit. We had a nut job shoot an officer and take off for what turned out to be a long pursuit. The cell system got so jammed that the county was preparing to call out amateur radio operators to add network capacity between specific points. The only reason they didn't is that two cell providers were able to switch on some backup capacity and limit it to official use. That alleviated the problem.
But, considering how spotty cell coverage can be and the frequent poor quality of calls, the thought of tossing the radios away and going to a straight cellular system -- well, I'm sure glad nobody around here is contemplating doing that. The county radios work a lot more reliably than cell phones.
"Airwave doesn’t have much room to move as Macquarie ultimately has shareholders to service."
Uh hun, so Airwave has to charge a lot to keep Macquarie shareholders happy.
And how happy will those Macquarie shareholders be when their purchase looses all its value due to being priced out of the market?
Of course Macquarie does have an alternative: Have Airwave launch a PR campaign explaining/claiming there is no viable alternative.
APs taking seconds to load?
On specialist devices APs would take as long to load as they're designed to.
Powerfailures affecting 4G in other parts of the world?
Other parts of the world have learned from this and have upgraded UPS requirements and physical durability requirements for transceivers and towers.
And then the emergency comms are available for everyone with an emergency, not just government employees.
iPhones falling apart minutes after you hand them to a copper?
Contruction industry has the same issue.
If the stock models aren't rugged enough you can ruggedized anything to proper military standards.
Why not buy Chinese kit? The Chinese honed the design by controlling their own population, sort of like buying equipment from a specialist supplier.
GCHQ should be able to reverse engineer out any backdoors in the pile of circuits and firmware, if they can't what is their reason for existence? Might as well just buy the spy data from NSA if GCHQ is dodders that much and throw the savings from firing GCHQ at... at... well, at something that Brits are still good at doing. There must be something.... anyone?
"GCHQ should be able to reverse engineer out any backdoors in the pile of circuits and firmware, if they can't what is their reason for existence?"
Indeed. In almost any other context, commentards would be repeating the mantra that physical access trumps all security, so it should be impossible for Huawei to include a back door without us noticing.
I suspect the real reason for the scare stories about Huawei is that they are now making stuff that is good enough to put Western suppliers out of business. It's protectionism masquarading as security, and it makes it less likely that we'll believe the real security issues when they come up.
>I suspect the real reason for the scare stories about Huawei is that they are now making stuff that is good enough to put Western suppliers out of business.
It should be remembered that Huawei do have a UK operation, to which GCHQ et al have had full access to for many years now...
"I suspect the real reason for the scare stories about Huawei is that they are now making stuff that is good enough to put Western suppliers out of business"
Having just dropped a bunch of cash (6+ figures) on deploying a bunch of Huawei kit, I believe your analysis is entirely accurate.
I have two points to make:
1) Do the walky talkies have any use for data? Does the *replacement* system have any use for data? Does it matter that the data available is only 7.5kbps? That's pretty slow but if the most you get is nothing, or a line or two of text, then it's more than adequate.
2) Phones now have heaps of RAM. Why can't the system start "recording" the moment you push the push-to-talk? I would certainly object to a system where you have to push a button then wait around for 1/2 second or a second or two while it does whatever before talking; on the other hand, I might not even notice if the audio's just being "buffered" a second or two.
"on the other hand, I might not even notice if the audio's just being "buffered" a second or two."
You will if you're trying to radio your compatriot who you can't see due to smoke but end up hearing since the sound carries through the smoke. As the article notes, a lag echo is just plain psychologically eerie.
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Overhauling emergency commo systems is just one small part of issues that the UK has in relation to Emergency Preparedness and Response.
I work in Emergency Management and the UK really needs to get off its ass in that regard, especially with the Government worrying about the effects of climate change on natural disasters yet making absolutely no public planning as to how to deal with it. There's nothing like NIMS, there's an old version of ICS that the Met Police and I believe City of London use, The UK's idea of Comprehenisve Emergency Management is not fit for purpose if you ask me, which is a shame as your Civil Defense plans were among the best, much better than the halfassed shit that FCDA and OEP had in the US at the time until FEMA was created in 1979 to unify it. Its a shame that Thatcher, Major and Blair all decided to virtually ignore domestic emergency planning aside from anti-terrorism, the UK could still be setting the standard, and your standards and doctrines from what I've seen (some are still classified) were a fuck of alot better than California's and the Federal Civil Defense Administration's plans, which is what the whole US used and still uses in some forms such as the Incident Command System which came from CALFIRE in the 1970's, though was not adopted as a national policy until 2004. Also, Counter-Terrorism isn't even emergency management, its a Policing, Intelligence, and Military function. Emergency Management deals with what happens after a gas line explodes or a terrorist blows it up and takes out a council estate or a tube station or what have you. But if you're not preparing or mitigating, and have a codified means of preparation and mitigation what's the point of reponse and recovery?
Your Government doesn't even have a standing agency under the Home Office or at Cabinet Level (where it should be) to assist the Prime Minister to handle it, and COBRA hardly counts. COBRA, from my understanding, is basically a half-assed version of our National Watch Center in DC and a non-survivable version of the Mount Weather Special Facility or Raven Rock's C4I centers. All it does is provide a means of the Cabinet Level and executive (in your case the Prime Minister) to assess what's going on and manage from the top, which doesn't work too well. CALFIRE realized this in the 60's when they created the common Incident Command System where the Incident Commander is the most competent person.
What the UK needs is a custom version of NIMS geared toward the UK's hazards. I see stories about the floods and storms every year and people dying from them and the response being somewhat piecemeal and patchwork with noone in overall control on a permanent basis, and none of the responders on the same page. Perhaps adding an extra layer of bureaucracy like a UK style FEMA is a dumb idea, but a framework of incident command and control for the existing agencies to use is a good idea and a UNISDR best practice. If the Developing World can do it (and does do it, the Ebola outbreak's a good example though it has some flaws and heavy handedness from some nations Armed Forces) there is no reason that a common incident management system should not be implemented.
Anyway, on to the subject after the Hurricanes that The Man Who Fell to Earth mentioned, the Cellular systems worked as they were supposed to as long as the base stations survive somewhat. To a user they'd appear to be down and unusable, but to the operator and the government as well as some FOUO (For Official Use Only) users it works normally for voice for the most part unless its LTE and works completely normally. Without LTE you don't usually have a data channel to speak of unless you can con the National Guard into using a Military SATCOM, they don't have to let you use it but you do have voice, and voice is good enough to compile an ICS-209, the datasheet we use for tracking who is doing what and where. The Incident Commanders at the Federal Response Center and National Watch Center engaged the US' equivalent to the MTPAS, but with our systems, we can and do lock out anyone who isn't on a SIM, landline or IMEI which is enabled to use the National Communications System from using most networks. Notably, the TCP/IP, X.25 and Frame Relay networks aren't subject to it aside from some traffic shaping to allow FEMA's teleregistration system and the Air Force's Air Material Command, Army Surface Distribution and Deployment Command, the Military Sealift Command and USTRANSCOM, as well as the Postal Service (yes, the Postal Service, I'm not joking. It sounds weird but there's a major reason for it when we're accounting for the deceased and missing that the NDMS may have missed at DMORT)
Facinating post. Wolld mean a lot more to me - and I'm seriously interested - If I knew what all those acronyms were. Hell, I doubt if i'd understand half of that post if it all referred to the uk. Any chance of pointing us on this side of the pond to some further reading?
Got to disagree with you on one point though - Global Warming's a bad example. The politicoes all generally KNOW its crap - but they also know its a good way of extracting pork, and more important frightening and controlling the population. Look at it this way - if your reputation is some significant number of orders of magnituge lower than the type of lice that don't get mentioned in polite company you need all the levers you can get.
The way you're all talking is that the Police are the only service that needs communications. They are quite primitive in theirs, other than their new penchant for mobile PNC checks, ANPR and other online matters. The big data users are the Ambulance services with their data mobilisation systems, electronic patient report form systems, and telemetry data from their patient monitoring equipment.
The Fire Services can make use of online building mapping, with greater incident information sent to them relating to potential hazards recorded about any given site. Though much of that data could be held offline in the mobile data terminal allowing much faster lookup on-the-fly.
The ESN is due to go live in 2016, BUT that's not all of it, the 700MHz spectrum will be for an exclusive LTE network to cover this sceptred isle, which will be compatible with the networks that are to be built around the world - yes, for once, the plan is a GLOBAL (as much as it can be!) standard for the Emergency Services, such that in the event of a proper disaster, people from one country can arrive in another one, with their own comms kit which will work straight away (roam!) with the ESN in that region.
There's more to this than meets the eye, but the main matter is to get off of Airwave as soon as is practicably possible, it is the millstone around their neck, and something created by the previous government who should have kept it in-house, not farmed out to private organisations / vulture capital companies.
One final couple of shots - the old VHF and UHF networks had much better coverage than even TETRA does, BUT it didn't have the capacity for multiple "conversations", point-to-point calling, and was not secure at all. It was the security issue that sold TETRA to the Home Office, who then forced it on all of the emergency services. Neither the Fire Service, nor the Ambulance services in the UK needed that kind of secure system with the lauded "interoperability", because at no time will a police dispatcher talk to a fire or ambulance crew, or any other combination. It is all done at command level and passed down the chain. And what's more, Fire services still use UHF for BA operations, not TETRA/Airwave. Once again, all about command and control, as well as cost and effectiveness.
TETRA is a good voice radio for the emergency services and the use of a second handset for data has been proven.
In the early days of the Airwave project we got hold of a commercial TETRA radio to get an early test. It even worked on the train down to London, when normal mobile phones lost coverage. Airwave TETRA is a good voice service that works well and has the required features. The single-press emergency button opens the mic and gives the radio interrupt priority back to the control room. So the officer wrestling a 20-stone mental patient quoted above can press the button and shout for help, leaving the radio fastened in its clip.
It's also simple to bring a GPS signal back through the system, providing you bought Airware radios with the GPS module fitted. This can provide the control room with a moving map display of where their people are, and can distinguish them by type and role.
We had this up and working for the G8 conference and the London Tube bombing.
The practice we developed was to equip officers with a second commercial handset that could do data. This gave the officers a tool they could use to run vehicle and person checks themselves, while leaving the all-important Airwave radio attached to their jacket so that it couldn't be knocked out of their hands. Of if things were hairy they could call on the radio for a person or vehicle check - the officer on the spot has the choice.
What Airwave never did, but what it was sold to the government and ACPO as doing, was data. The sales demonstrations showed live streaming video back from the scene of an incident. That got a few Chief Constables salivating and waving chequebooks.
But it is a good voice radio with all the right features for the emergency services.
Airwave also kept working during the London Tube bombing, when the mobile phone network became saturated. There was the option to invoke MTPAS at the time (and I believe it may have been done in one London Borough), but the concensus afterwards was that blocking the public from using mobile phones would have contributed to the panic. So it makes sense to not use 4g or a commercial bearer for crisis comms.
So, continue to use the TETRA network but open it to commercial handsets and offer a second (cheap, off the shelf) smartphone as a sacrificial data terminal?
Airwave have got around 99% geographical coverage of the UK with TETRA due to using 400MHz spectrum where propagation is much better than 700MHz any other 4G band. How do they think they'll get the blanket coverage that's required for emergency service communications?
Good luck in them thar hills.....
In 1947 the Allies established the Nuremberg Code, the first international document to support the concept that "the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential" for biological experiments upon human subjects. TETRA is formally a biological experiment which does not end before 2018. Sadly, no consent was obtained, nor were the expected biological hazards pointed out to police officers or staff. Even more sadly, there are now many who have developed cancers of the eye, ear, brain, and body where they attach their TETRA set.
There are know bio effects attributable to Tetra (hence why you don't put a handset in your shirt pocket or near a pacemaker), but these are to do with the way signal power is handled. It was one of the pro's and con's of adopting Tetra(UK) v. TETRAPOL (as used in many European countries).
As for mass market mobile phones, we still in the trial phase and so there is a (small) possibility that like cigarette smoking we may discover they are in fact dangerous. However, if you are using a WiFi connected device you are exposing yourself to higher levels of radio energy from the WiFi adaptor in that device and for longer than from the GSM phone...
the peer-reviewed clinical studies that can prove these effect
Not everything requires a full blown clinical study...
From memory, during the 90's when TETRA(UK) was being debated and evaluated, medical concerns around radio energy exposure did get a lot of attention and experiments conducted. The risks were assessed and although it was unlikely that emergency services personnel would be wearing pacemakers or have heart problems, guidance was put out to avoid putting handsets in shirt pockets ie. near the heart. Hence why you will see police wearing handsets on the shoulder or on the waist...
Sometimes, the simplest approach isn't to try and disprove something but to work around it, particularly if experts can show there is a possibly of the effects being encountered outside of the lab. (A bit like crossing the road, most of the time you can cross one anywhere, but in generally it is safer to always use a pedestrian crossing.) Given the lack of any subsequent exposé in the media or medical cases being raised by the emergency service's unions, it would seem the advice was sufficient.
Because TETRAPOL has a different radio energy profile, it doesn't have the same potential side effect.
The police will require coverage in country areas where ordinary mobile coverage is often poor. Its not worth the cost of an extra mobile base station because the extra number of customers pulled in is far too small to recover the costs of an extra base station.
All providers tend to avoid the same areas for the same reason so switching providers is no help.
Who will pay for the extra base stations needed to give police the coverage they need?
TETRA operates on a much lower frequencies than Mobile which makes achieving a high percentage area coverage easier.
The police will have many operational requirements that ordinary mobiles do not support. Now that our political elite have successfully redesigned the UK electricity system they are ready to move on to new successes in new areas of technology.
To alleviate the trolley problem (assuming the disaster event didn't take out the entire infrastructure), having a core network along with a picocell stuffed into a backpack and walked around the disaster area to provide connectivity to those in the immediate disaster area seems logical, while allowing priority access to those with proper credentials on the normal network outside the disaster zone. This is all not to say that 4G is a good idea for replacing Tetra. Here in the States, we're using P25 which has even worse data support but I don't hear of any talks to replace it.
LTE band 31 (450 MHz) isn't an option in the UK, I presume?
OK, so VoLTE on LTE450 is probably not an option within the timeframe outlined in any case. But it sure sounds like a tempting long-term solution:
- Allows for a theoretical cell radius of 48.9 km. Or, given a land-area of 242kkm2 (UK), 33 towers in the highly overoptimistic, non-overlapping, non-realistic scenario.
- mass-market devices/radios (eventually)
- IP-enabled by default. Build *any* functionality as a networked application. PTT could possibly make use of the camera-button or whatever physical button is available on a rugged mass-market device.
- add priority by way of MTPAS (yeah, yeah, LTE Release 13)
Our company of ex-police officers uses Andromeda AD100-GPS, which uses 3G/4G, and are hugely impressed in comparison to Airwaves which always let us down in our policing roles. Sure, there are some signal areas which aren't quite there yet, but MUCH better than the constant blackspots of Airwave use. And they are extremely cost effective even when compared to closed network radios. Highly recommended and definitely the technology of the future!
Use a TETRA or other trunked system similar to what is now in use for PTT, group broadcasts, etc. And then add 4G voice/data capability i a different frequency block. The (low) data rate in today's trunked radio should be sufficient to hand off the radio to a broadband connection when needed.
I remember talking to some police radio techs just before Airwave took over. They were quite looking forward to getting early retirement because, like so many other industries, the amount of hassle in the job had increased dramatically. But they thought their existing network could have been modernised for a fraction of the cost of Airwave to the police.
The difference was shown during major power outages when the previous radio network had 100% diesel backup and could run for weeks with no mains power.