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Milestone for UK’s emergency communications network
Published:  26 February, 2018

The new 4G Emergency Services Network (ESN) system has achieved its first successful demonstration over a live public mobile network.

Engineers performed the test on 8 February between an EE mobile mast site in Bristol and a location in Basingstoke.

The ESN will deliver integrated critical voice and broadband data services to all three emergency services and other users throughout the UK, using an enhanced commercial network to deliver broadband data services. The current service, Airwave, is operated on a private mobile radio system.

This is the first time Motorola Solutions’ software has linked together with the live EE mobile phone network and demonstrated prioritisation of emergency services communications on a public network.

On the enhanced commercial network the emergency services will get priority over other users, which will avoid the need for separate mobile radio spectrum. The ESN will provide wide geographical coverage along major and minor roads, to rural and special coverage locations (eg road tunnels and railway facilities, including London Underground and Glasgow Subway), 12 miles out to sea covering British territorial waters and air-to-ground communications in England, Scotland and Wales.

Once introduced, the UK will be the first country in the world to deliver critical voice and data for emergency services over an enhanced commercial 4G network.

“Members of the public are already seeing some of the incidental benefits of the project like its improvement of the 4G mobile network – 90 per cent of the UK is now covered,” said Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd.

Other recent milestones include the introduction of 130 handheld devices for testing; and the laying of leaky feeder cables in 100km of tunnels in London Underground, out of a total of 420km.

The UK Home Office said that over 100 genuine emergency calls had been received through masts in place due to ESN where there was previously no coverage, demonstrating the ability of ESN to help save lives even before the roll out is complete.

The new infrastructure is being delivered by mobile network operator EE, with user services being developed by Motorola Solutions. The team is supported by Kellog Brown Root.

The ESN 4G handheld devices are being supplied by Samsung Electronics. The first Samsung Galaxy S8 ESN-build handsets are expected to be delivered in spring 2018. The procurement of vehicle and air-to-ground devices for police vehicles, fire engines, ambulances and helicopters is under way, according to the Home Office.

Image credit: Zakhar Mar, Shutterstock