back to article UK.gov won't Airwave bye for another 3 years, plans to phase in ESN services

The Home Office has overhauled its plans to replace the UK's emergency services radio infrastructure with a 4G network, extending the lifespan of the existing network by three years and offering users early access to some services. Police and the fire brigade attend an emergency in waterloo on 2014 Britain mulls 'complete …

  1. James 51
    FAIL

    How much would you be willing to bet that there's a nationwide 5G network before this system is fully deployed and useable?

    1. Giovani Tapini Silver badge

      Are you really expecting Nationwide 5g coverage at all?

      Don't forget these devices are supposed to work in rural areas too.

      National coverage in most cases means along the main roads and in the biggest towns...and is generally measured as a percentage of population covered, not landmass which is a substantial drop.

      1. Spazturtle

        Re: Are you really expecting Nationwide 5g coverage at all?

        The lowest frequencies being deployed in the UK for 4G is 800Mhz, the lowest for 5G is 700Mhz. 5G also has a lot of improvements in regards to spectral efficiency over 4G.

        So theoretically it should be easier to provide rural coverage with 5G then with 4G.

        What is really needed is legislative changes though. The UK has the lowest height restrictions for mobile towers in Europe AND you are not allowed to make towers taller then the treeline (can somebody inform parliament that trees grow).

    2. dave 81

      At three times the initial cost?

    3. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Not with sufficient coverage. There are plenty of places in the UK where ESN would deliver 4G comms, but to date commercial networks have not even delivered reliable GPRS.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We have to get a nationwide 3G one first

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    Re: can somebody inform parliament that trees grow

    I'm sure their gardner must have mentioned that, but because he's just a gardner it went in one ear and out the other.

  3. }{amis}{
    Paris Hilton

    Why Just 4G???

    Given that you can get mobiles off the shelf that have three 2-4g modems built in why can't you just use something like that so each unit has a live connection to the 3 physical mobile networks in the UK and then just route's over the strongest available signal.

    Couple that with a local area mesh network based on IEEE 802.11s to offload the bulk of local traffic and I really can't see why this is so expensive??

    I understand that 4g is the first generation of mobile network that supports emergency traffic priority but it seems to be a very crap trade-off.

    You could take it even further by placing high power repeaters into the vehicles.

    1. Spazturtle

      Re: Why Just 4G???

      2G and 3G use circuit switching for voice whilst 4G and 5G uses packet switching making them incompatible.

      This is also a LTE-Broadcast (LTE-B) network not an LTE or LTE-A network like your phone uses. 3G has no broadcast capabilities and I doubt 2G does either.

      2G (1991) and 3G (2001) were designed for another age and are no longer fit for purpose.

  4. Daedalus Silver badge

    Weasel words

    Some of us, particularly those in the education biz in the 70's, remember what ESN used to mean.

    It could easily be applied to those in charge of this latest project.

  5. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Why didnt they just take a hybrid approach and find a way of allowing devices to use Airwave for voice and EE for 4G? Surely that's the best of both worlds. Maybe that just makes too much sense for a government contract.

  6. Simon Rockman

    Be careful of people around the Emergency Services network re-writing the past. The new ESN was supposed to start replacing Airwave in April 2016

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/01/08/airwave_tetra_switch_off_gov_services_onmishambles/

    This hasn’t started yet so it’s already three years late.

    Every time they have moved the goalposts it’s late compared to the last time it was due, hence the “year late”. They haven’t even started testing because the service isn’t ready – I don’t think the device to device software is locked down yet – so whenever it is ready, and that looks like years – there will need to be 18 months of testing. This service isn’t a year late if it’s less than nine years late I will be surprised. Oh, and it’s many years since I used Kodiak, but it was so laggy that when I pressed the button and said hello to a college and they didn’t reply I walked down the corridor to the colleague’s office and as I entered his office I heard my message arrive. I doubt that it’s that bad now, but I very much doubt it’s up to the use the police need.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      @Simon Rockman

      Interesting,... the place I now work has ties with the local Police force, so we've had some aerials for comms installed, and of course have had two different masts put up, .. I guess this is for the current system, and getting ready to transition to the new one?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Back then I'm pretty sure I said it wouldn't start until 2020...

      Still easily time for me to be right...

      The uptime from Airwave is significantly better than from any commercial 4G network, and it has to be. Lives really do depend on it.

      The capabilities of the network are fundamentally different from the commercial networks, and running them over 4G 'broadband' really is a kludge in many ways - I'm sure it will sort-of work eventually...

      The redundancy and continual testing of UPS/failover (i.e. they know that the fallback site works, because it was the primary a couple of months ago, and was actively tested last week) is not something that the mobile providers have ever needed to take seriously.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Announced what it is euphemistically calling a "new strategic approach'

    How long before we can look forward to this:

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/08/22/verizon_throttled_departments/

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    FAIL

    So once again the Home Offices proves itself

    A Centre for Evil (C) in the UK*

    *And does anyone believe that "Substantially the same" claim about what Motorola charged them for that 3 year extension?

    Remember UK readers, it's not the Home Offices money.

    It's UK taxpayers money.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: So once again the Home Offices proves itself

      And does anyone believe that "Substantially the same" claim about what Motorola charged them for that 3 year extension?

      Given that the initial high cost of providing TETRA / Airwave will have been to cover the high costs associated with site acquisition and construction, and those costs ought to have been amortised years ago there is an arguable case that any extension to the contract should be relatively modestly priced. (Some hope!!) At the same time Motorola must know full well that it has the Home Office over a barrel, with nowhere else to go.

      Ultimately this whole sorry enterprise will provide another case study for collectors of botched procurements. I doubt if the supposed cost savings will ever materialise; EE (and I suspect Samsung) must be ratcheting up development costs that were not factored in at the time of the original bidding process, and they will want to recover those costs.

      I strongly suspect that there have been no meaningful proof - of - concept trials yet; had there been their "success" would have been trumpeted for all to hear. When TETRA was adopted it was after trials conducted on Jersey; I suspect that the adoption of ESN was based on scribbled notes written by sales droids, and that those are no longer worth the paper they were scribbled on, and quite probably never were.

      I also suspect that the serious slippage in the target date will also provide serious headaches for the user community, who are faced with the real prospect of having to replace existing equipment with "more of the same" when its useful lifetime might be very short.

      The expression "not fit for purpose" is on my view vastly overworked, but I can see no other description applicable to the clowns in the Home Office who have committed the user community to a system that apparently cannot currently be shown to work and the taxpayer for a large bill with not much to show for it. A bit like the Nimrod Maritime Patrol aircraft programme if my memory is correct...

  9. phuzz Silver badge
    Facepalm

    As predicted, the move means the Home Office has had to ink a deal with Motorola to extend the Airwave network for three years to 31 December 2022, which the firm said was "on substantially similar terms".

    The government has also extended an agreement with Motorola Solutions by 30 months to 2024, as part of its delivery of some of the ESN User Services.

    So let me get this clear, we (the UK taxpayers) are paying Motorola for Airwave, and also paying Motorola for part of the replacement for Airwave?

    So every year that ESN slips means another year of payments to Motorola for Airwave, plus another year of payments to implement ESN?

    Well, I'm sure they're working as hard as possible to get it finished soon, right?

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      You beat me to it! have an upvote.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Motorola are the only winners

    Motorola profits handsomely from Airwave lifetime being extended.

    Motorola profits handsomely from delayed rollout of ESN.

    Motorola is directly responsible for many of the delays rolling out ESN.

    Win win!

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