ESN device tender dates announced
Written by: Philip Mason | Published:

The Home Office has announced that the invitation to tender (ITT) for ESN-enabled hand-held ruggedised devices is expected to go out at the end of this week. This will be followed - according to ESMCP's Steve Whatson - by vehicle devices, which will go to the market in May. The tenders follow a period of consultation with public safety users across the country, including representatives from the Police and Fire and Rescue Service.

The announcements came during the opening session of BAPCO 2017, the annual event for those involved in public safety communications, which took place in Telford this week. Speaking of the imminent issuing of the tenders, Whatson said: "The programme made a decision after some considerable consultation that it made sense to centrally set-up a framework for devices.

"Companies will be able to take part in getting their devices onto that framework, from which users will then be able to procure. Regarding vehicles, we'll likely only go for a single device."

Whatson was accompanied during the joint presentation by EE's Lucy Baker, alongside Simon McCutcheon from Motorola Solutions, both of whom provided updates on their respective companies' areas of work.

During her presentation, Baker said that EE's 4G geographic coverage has risen from 50 per cent to 80 per cent since being awarded the ESN contract in 2015. She also announced that the company was using BAPCO 2017 to launch a 'coverage portal' through which users will be able to gain more detail of predicted coverage in specific locations up to 100 metres, with information updated every three months.

McCutcheon meanwhile gave an update on ESN device development, saying that feature pack four has now been delivered, bringing with it functionality including group and private push to talk, private messaging, private telephony and emergency functions. Imminent further 'drops', said McCutcheon, would include functions such as video streaming. No details were forthcoming as to how much ESN hand held devices will cost on a unit-by-unit basis.

Land Mobile asked Whatson for an update on the issue raised during the PAC recall hearing that took place on 1 February: Vodafone's decision to switch off the legacy network that connects Airwave's TETRA sites by March 2020.

"Since then... We've met with Vodafone and Motorola [Solutions]. They've proposed a number of options to resolve the problem and we're just now waiting for them to come back with the details and then we can make a decision of which one we go with," Whatson said. "I think as a risk or issue, it's sliding rapidly down, because we'll have a solution... Technically there are quite of options, it's just finding the right technical [and] economic option, given that yes we want it to run for a little bit longer but we don't want 10 years out of it..."

"...I'm still absolutely baffled as to why the PAC thought it worth holding a complete recall hearing over that... I don't know why that [issue] triggered so much interest..."

Whatson added that one of the advantages of ESN is that it will enable a smoother transition to 5G, which is expected to offer ultra-reliable, low-latency communications. "We have an interest in it [5G]. We've been in a couple of quite detailed discussions... That's one of the advantages of coming off TETRA, which was a fixed protocol, which basically came to the end of its development, whereas 4G just evolves into 5G."

During the first day of the event, attendees voted on which of the products on display in the Product Innovation Zone they believe will have the greatest impact on public safety communication. The results were announced at the BAPCO Annual dinner, with Capita's 999EYE in first place and Radiocom Danmark A/S's StreamCom solution being highly commended.

999EYE allows 999 callers with smartphones to receive a text message containing a URL. Once clicked, a one-use-only live stream is established that allows footage or images to be sent directly to the control room. GPS coordinates are also delivered, helping to pinpoint the exact location of an incident.

StreamCom combines in-ambulance cameras, Google Glass, mobile routers from Peplink and other equipment to allow video streaming to secure servers. This allows other professionals to monitor the situation remotely and provide paramedics and other on-site personnel with advice and assistance.

BAPCO 2017 took place over two days at the International Centre in Telford. Alongside representatives from ESMCP, delegates also witnessed presentations from the Metropolitan Police, London Fire Brigade, JESIP, Google and more.

BAPCO 2018 will take place on 20-21 March at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

Image: Steve Whatson, ESMCP, at the BAPCO Autumn Event (new image to follow shortly)

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