back to article 'Mindset reset' contributes to £1bn extra costs and another delay – 2 years this time – for Emergency Services Network

A "mindset reset" in the UK's Emergency Services Network (ESN) project is behind £1bn in additional costs and a further delay of two years, according to Home Office boss Matthew Rycroft. Already delayed by five years and over budget by £3bn, the scheme to upgrade Britain's blue-light comms network might not be fully available …

  1. Chris Hills

    Extensive use of euphamisms

    Call it what it is: project failure. Maybe if people used the appropriate words to describe things in the first place we would see fewer messes like this.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Extensive use of euphamisms

      Good new excuse though.

      I still haven't finished that bit of the bathroom floor for 3 yeas because of "mindset reset"

      1. john.jones.name
        WTF?

        how is software called Kodiak supposed to work ?

        how is software called Kodiak supposed to work if the handsets are all IP ala 5G stand alone and they go out of range then do they create their own network no matter the provider they where using ?

        someone clearly does not understand how networks actually work... unless I'm missing something ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: how is software called Kodiak supposed to work ?

          then do they create their own network no matter the provider they where using ?

          AFAIK it isn't really PTT, just a software emulation of it over the network. If you're out of range of the 3G/4G network, you're out of contact, PTT or not. It doesn't offer actual direct peer-to-peer communications.

          1. RM Myers
            Coat

            Direct Peer-to-peer communications

            Why do you need to spend billions on a new direct communications system for the House of Lords?

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              Re: Direct Peer-to-peer communications

              IoT hearing aids?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Extensive use of euphamisms

      I think the name "Project Failure" has already been reserved by Boris to rename "Project Moonshot" in about 6 months

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Extensive use of euphamisms

        Project Moonshot

        Project Moon Perigee

        Project Impact AKA sub-surface orbit achieved

        Project New Crater

        1. First Light Silver badge

          Re: Extensive use of euphamisms

          Too funny!

  2. Pete4000uk

    Who was the priority?

    If the users were not at the centre of the project, who were?

    Shocking incompetence

    1. Refugee from Windows
      Coat

      Re: Who was the priority?

      I suggest that the users were never consulted in the first place. The local Police regret losing their private VHF network, that operated independently. You might not have been able to use it for data but it did work.

      Airwave never got the PTT function activated and it never talked to the other blue light services, so you could describe it as failed, chances are the ESN will never get it either.

      The 4G network becomes the single point of failure, what could possibly go wrong?

      Coat, as I'd expect at somepoint a certain national emergency communications organisation will be called out to cover some large scale failure.

      1. James Anderson

        Re: Who was the priority?

        Been on a boat recently.

        Modern marine VHF radios transmit and receive data on id, position etc. without any problems.

        1. BenM 29 Bronze badge
          Coat

          Re: Who was the priority?

          your problem is in the use of the word modern. Police kit was old tech.

          The UHF (Hand helds) system worked exceptionally well (for specific values of exceptionally and well) but was old kit and therefore bad.... apparently. PTT, local comms, local area interconnection by a simply twist of a knob.

          The VHF system (generally vehicle based) enabled forces all over the country to talk to each other from anywhere simply by changing frequency.

          Of course both could be snooped, and were, which was the biggest problem.

          /mines the big black tax payer funded Goretex-alike jacket

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Who was the priority?

            Of course both could be snooped, and were, which was the biggest problem.

            Which sounds like a good cause for encryption kit on the next UHF handsets, rather than for creating a weird handset type running over the mobile phone network.

          2. keithpeter Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Who was the priority?

            As a naive taxpayer I think that I'm generally in favour of local direct emergency systems that work without sophisticated central servers, network infrastructure and so on. You could have a smartphone additionality to that providing data access on the run, but the basic ability to communicate and coordinate should be, it strikes me, as independent of systems that depend on mains power, cables, and consumer networks.

            Is there not a hybrid approach available that would use VHF/UHF plus some kind of scrambling, possibly with a rotated scrambling schema downloaded to each radio while charging? How long does operational voice conversation remain sensitive? Hours? Days?

        2. 080

          Re: Who was the priority?

          Not only marine radios, get them off the shelf from your local Motorola and others dealers. But this is a government project so they must invent a different shaped wheel.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Who was the priority?

            >get them off the shelf from your local Motorola

            Alternately can we think of any other literally "front line" services of the British state who need reliable secure radio networks and perhaps copy those?

            Surely they can be repainted from green to plod-blue for less than a billion quid?

            (couldn't remember what the army's current radio system is called - but if you type "british army radio fiasco" into the internets you get a list of all them)

      2. Commswonk

        Re: Who was the priority?

        Airwave never got the PTT function activated [1] and it never talked to the other blue light services [2], so you could describe it as failed [3], chances are the ESN will never get it either [4].

        Brackets mine, and for the following reasons.

        [1] Rubbish; complete rubbish. You do realise that PTT means Press - To - Talk and not something else... or perhaps you don't *. Airwave PTT worked right from the outset.

        [2] What do you mean by this? If you mean no interoperability with other services that is because of user policy decisions, not any failing of Airwave. And no interoperability at what "level" of user? Inter - service operability can be a mixed blessing if not used properly because it can result in a failure of proper Command & Control and Information Management. "On the ground" interoperability between services is Incident Commanders (who need not be senior grades) interacting face to face; at a higher level it operates between Control Rooms or perhaps "Silver" Commanders on the ground.

        [3] Perhaps, but not for the reasons you have given.

        [4] Perhaps it will, but the reasons are likely to be numerous.

        * Are you perhaps confusing it with PSTN?

    2. Mike Pellatt

      Re: Who was the priority?

      Who were at the centre of the project?

      Why, the vendor(s) of course.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who was the priority?

      "If the users were not at the centre of the project, who were?".

      They were, that's part of the problem. Having been involved in a small way at the beginning of this débâcle, with attempting to clarify some of the MDT requirements, I'm not surprised it's turned out this was. Wayyyy too many cooks plus Government involvement equals cockup.

      Requirement capture was very entertaining in the early days, with all sorts of focus groups taking place among the different blue-light entities. You could almost say the requirements were being crowd-sourced. Most of the brainstorm/focus sessions I attended were driven/led by do-ers rather than managers which was a good thing. The thing missing was the filtering out of the unachievable stuff (e.g. 'The handset must double as a collapsible baton', or 'thermal imaging capabilities are mandatory') and the collation of useful ideas by a team of objectively professional people. If they had stuck to the basics of Voice comms for those who wanted it (Police mainly) and Data for those who wanted it (Ambulance, Fire services mainly) things would have been much simpler. As usual, the technical scope got wildly blown out of proportion as more and more 'bolt-on' features were added as time went on - Government-scale scope creep! If only people had focussed on the basics and ignored all the flim-flam BS and 'noise' about empowering service users, things would be a lot further forward, if not finished.

      Winners:Motorola, and to some extent EE/BT.

      Losers:Service Users (The 3ES do-ers at the sharp end)

      Most at risk : Joseph Public.

      AC as I'm still in the national comms industry.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Who was the priority?

        You spelled "too many crooks" wrong.

  3. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Devil

    "this technology will have automatic upgrades built into it"

    Seriously? Ahahahaha... oh my sides... that is a good one. That's what every salesman wants to be able to get away with saying, but it's never actually the truth, really. Because new capabilities will always need new hardware, new software, new configuration - there will always be things that the current system doesn't and can't cope with.

    If they really believe this, I've got a slightly used bridge available for sale...

  4. Paul Herber Silver badge

    I want my automatic upgrades to go all the way up to 11G

    1. Daniel von Asmuth

      Automatic upgrades

      You will get an emergency services network running on Windows 10, where upgrades result in emergencies.

  5. Flak
    Flame

    What was originally procured is not what will be delivered

    This is shocking, but not surprising at all.

    The original contract was awarded to EE in 2015.

    Prioritised communication and 'push to talk' were part of the original tender, with the service pitched to run on EE's 'existing 4G' infrastructure, with coverage being augmented incrementally.

    I would like to know what is taking so long.

    The incremental roll-out could have led to services deployed much sooner, but it appears that the customer - the Home Office - has moved the goal posts a few times and any good project manager this means more time and more costs - this 'Mindless Reset' being the latest shift.

    The Home Office is paying EE for services it is not using and paying Airwave for extension to services it should not be using any longer.

    Twice the cost and an out of date service! Genius!

    1. Alister

      Re: What was originally procured is not what will be delivered

      Prioritised communication and 'push to talk' were part of the original tender

      They may well have been. The fact is that neither of those things were available at the time of the original tender, and still aren't now, properly.

      I would like to know what is taking so long.

      Tyring to build in functionality which doesn't exist takes time.

      They could have added "must be powered by Unicorns and protected by Dragons" to the tender as well.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dildo

    They need to put Dildo Harding in charge of this once she has sorted the NHS and track and trace, and found a cure for COVID-19.

    She has lots of experience of managing projects that are going wrong and making them shine again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dildo

      get The Donald to run it, Trump is an expert on everything don't you know, he'd sort it out in no time!

    2. monty75

      Re: Dildo

      She has lots of experience of managing projects that are going wrong and making them shite again.

      FTFY

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge

        Re: Dildo

        turd polishing

  7. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    This announcement was inevitable...

    Considering that the ESN project is so FUBAR'd that Capita (Otherwise known as the average British Regenista's "favorite" organizational herald of impending project doom) was recently brought into the project with the idea that it would IMPROVE the situation, then its not surprising to find that the situation is basically "We've got to go back to the drawing board to see how we get Britain's future emergency services comms beyond the two-tin-cans-connected-by-300-miles-of-string stage".

    https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2020/03/11/capita_esn_contract/

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what do they use in other countries? Are we reinventing the wheel again!?

    1. David Lewis 2

      Oi! We'll have none of that NIH rubbish around here.

      Anyway how can we have a "World Beating" system if someone else is using it?

  9. macjules

    The Magic 2022 Again

    Crossrail, the M4 digitisation and now ESN - they all seem to be guaranteed to roll out in 2022. Perhaps this is some senior civil servant's retirement year hence no plans need to be made beyond this time?

  10. Steve Goodey

    Eh?

    What is M4 digitisation? Smart motorway malarkey?

  11. localzuk Silver badge

    Coverage

    So, if this all relies on the 4g network, how are they going to handle coverage in the many rural areas of the UK where 4g just doesn't exist, and would be prohibitively expensive to roll out?

    1. Red Ted
      Go

      Re: Coverage

      That's why EE keep announcing all the rural cell towers that they keep putting up. They are meant to be providing the 97% geographic 4G coverage required for the ESN.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Coverage

        > That's why EE keep announcing all the rural cell towers that they keep putting up.

        Well, in our (rural) area, they have put up two additional masts, and are looking for land to place others. When the people here cired "Great, so that means better 4G coverage", the response was "Good grief, no, those masts are just for the emergency services, not you peasants." (OK that may be a mild paraphrase.)

        There seems to be a lot going on with this project that smells really bad.

      2. localzuk Silver badge

        Re: Coverage

        So 3% of the country won't have emergency services coverage by "radio". That's ~7250 km2 of land without coverage. Roughly 3x the area of Greater London, or about half of Northern Ireland.

        That's a lot of coverage gaps!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually, it's all working rather well...

    The misconception is that this project is to give the emergency services new radio comms. The real project, which is to shovel loads of dosh into the hands of landowners (who just happen to constitute a rather large subset of those calling themselves Tories) to site the extra masts needed to provide a "seamless" service throughout the land, is going rather well, judging by the location and number of these masts in our area. You see, the fabulous part is that it's not corruption when it's embedded in the nation's institutions. Corruption and incompetence only happens in other places.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Actually, it's all working rather well...

      It's about 5 grand a year (rural) and due to be substantially reduced. So a nice little earner,but not the huge amount you may think (city landlords get far more).

  13. batfink Silver badge

    You could see this coming from miles off

    As per previous El Reg articles ad nauseum, it was clear from the start that this was never going to work in any reasonable timeframe.

    So, for me, it's either a complete failure to understand on the part of those signing it off, or it's just plain old-fashioned corruption.

    1. Commswonk

      Re: You could see this coming from miles off

      So, for me, it's either a complete failure to understand on the part of those signing it off, or it's just plain old-fashioned corruption.

      I think this debacle is an excellent example of Hanlon's Razor in action: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence. There are too many people & organisations involved for "corruption" to be viable; too great a likelihood of someone spotting it. A complete failure to understand is much, much more likely.

  14. mazort

    Motorola bought Airwave at the time it became an ESN supplier. Motorola paid cash in an amount equal to the cash flows remaining on the original contract which ended in 2019. Motorola's entire investment has already paid off, such that Airwave contract extensions are insanely profitable. Motorola owns Kodiak. Connect the dots.

  15. Phil Kingston

    "A year's delay across the whole of the legacy estate is in the ballpark of £550m,"

    Just me, or is that a mind-boggling amount of money to keep the lights on for another year? It's a mind-boggling amount of money to do anything.

  16. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Mindset Reset

    In other words 'brainwashing'. So I wonder just who are the victims

    1. Commswonk

      Re: Mindset Reset

      So I wonder just who are the victims

      Lots of them... actually lots of us

      Joe Public who is having to fund this balls - up via taxation and are reliant on the emergency services being able to actually do their jobs, plus the emergency service workers who are going to have to try to work with a radio system that simply won't provide them with the functionality that they need on a day to day basis.

  17. alwallgbr
    WTF?

    Is "back to back" viable?

    At 3.4 Ghz without using a local EE network, just what range will a couple of these handsets have when used back to back?

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