back to article Emergency services 4G by 2020? And monkeys could fly out of my butt

Users of the UK government's plans to shove the emergency services on to a 4G network by March 2020 are sceptical about the programme's timetable. Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, since a scheme of this scale has never before been tried anywhere else in the world. The Emergency Services Network (ESN) – set to replace the Tetra …

  1. BongoJoe
    WTF?

    4G on the Llŷn Peninsula within the next four years?

    Or will that be

    No emergency services on the Llŷn Peninsula within the next four years?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It will be 4G for the emergency services on the Llŷn Peninsula within the next four years. Availability might extend to the general public if EE think it's commercially viable to add more capacity on base stations etc to cater for public use as well.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And then...

    ESN is a going to be an MVNO on the EE network. It's not only going to have to provide coverage to 90%+ of the land mass, but to the same grade of service on Airwave. Bearing in mind that Airwave runs out on ~400Mhz and Orange on mainly 1800+ Mhz that implies an awful lot of new base stations. I wonder whether any has thought of the consequences of insisting that one company out of four has to provide a higher grade of service to the UK than the others - may be even one that works as we all would want - I dunno about you, but I'd use it :-)

    No, I don't think it's going happen on time either (just for the record).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And then...

      Joe Public won't have access to the ESN element of the network - that's secure, and only accessible to devices with an ESN-capable SIM.

      As I understand it, the network infrastructure will be EE, but that doesn't automatically mean it will *all* be available to non-ESN customers.

      In theory you could be in a place where someone with a normal EE phone has no service, but someone with an ESN-capable phone does have coverage. In those cases EE only need to provide enough base station capacity to service the ESN community, not the EE customer base in general.

      1. Jon 37 Silver badge

        Re: And then...

        But I thought the hard part of installing base stations was getting the site, planning permission, power and backhaul sorted out? And if the backhaul is microwave then capacity shouldn't be an issue for a low-usage cell, and if the backhaul is fiber then capacity shouldn't be an issue at all. So I'd expect the cost difference to be very small between installing a normal EE 4G-only cell site versus a ESN-only cell site.

        Given that, why wouldn't EE install normal cell sites everywhere they're rolling out ESN? It looks to me like EE is being paid to expand their coverage significantly, and if I were them I'd be taking advantage of it.

        (If you wanted to support older phones that only do 2G or 3G, then that would likely cost a little more due to needing extra radios and aerials, and possibly planning permission for the extra aerials, so the improved coverage may only be for modern 4G smartphones).

    2. Commswonk
      FAIL

      Re: And then...

      An AC wrote: No, I don't think it's going happen on time either (just for the record).

      My version reads: No, I don't think it's going happen on time either (just for the record).

      Quite apart from the network engineering that is required there is the not small matter of portable and vehicle equipment manufacturers designing suitable equipment and getting it manufactured in sufficiently large quantities. IIRC TETRA was fully tested (albeit on a much smaller scale) before any seriously big and costly decisions were made, including some major trials on Jersey. After quite a long time there was a carefully phased roll - out (over many months) across the UK with separate networks operating in different counties (i.e. force areas) before there was a "big bang" to change over to everyone using the same MNC.

      This "plan" seems to be based on the idea that it will all somehow just "work", and as doubtless everyone on this forum is painfully aware big projects don't work that way.

      Does anyone know if there is actually a coherent specification drawn up against an equally coherent User Requirement? And has anyone actually trialled any equipment against that specification?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just in time for 5G to start rolling out.

  4. Haku
    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Won't crooks start singing that Bob Marley song?

      Those "I want peace and quiet around me" jamming devices will be even more dangerous, yes.

      On the other hand, you can buy 2 way UHF radios off eBay for dinner money that could cause mayhem so it's swings and roundabouts. And new scanners are arriving that decode TETRA (direct mode only, so far) and some people are claiming success with listening in on TETRA with Software Defined Radios on Linux with rainbow tables to decode the encryption (way beyond my expertise so I kind of tip my hat to their knowledge) so perhaps the time really has come to move onto something more modern.

  5. Andre Carneiro

    Any advantages?

    I'm not entirely sure of what exactly the advantage of this migration actually is. TETRA is quite reliable and seems to be perfectly fit for purpose.

    The ability of vehicle mounted devices to route portable device calls is also pretty useful and I'm not sure that this will still be a feature of the new system.

    Not entirely sure that better data throughout is actually significantly useful for the Emergency Services.

    Other than money for grabs, does anyone know what the point of all this is, exactly?

    1. paulf
      Unhappy

      Re: Any advantages?

      The claimed point is that 4G will mean the control room can send a detailed map to an ambulance crew or perhaps a building plan to plod on the ground. That is a good idea.

      The bad idea is migrating the primary functionality (i.e. voice) to the 4G side of things too so it's all 4G and no TETRA. TETRA can do all kinds of funky things - not only is the range much better due to the lower frequency (around 400MHz) which can punch through buildings that GSM signals at 900MHz/1800MHz+ struggle with but it can also run the handsets back to back in the absence of a mother network. Useful in serious emergencies as this is the time when the mother network tends to go TITSUP.

      The downside is TETRA is really shitty on data rates which were specified for voice only and not actual data so TETRA alone would have struggled with anything other than voice.

      The ideal solution would have been to make handsets that combined rich media via 4G with TETRA for voice only but that didn't happen.

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