U.K. Official Updates on Nationwide Public-Safety LTE Rollout
Thursday, November 03, 2016 | Comments

A U.K. Home Office official declined to confirm the country’s timeline to launch public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE) services has slipped, but said the network rollout “will take as long as it will take so users are comfortable with services.”

Richard Hewlett, deputy director, Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) Crime, Policing and Fire Group, last week said quality is more important than timing for the U.K. Emergency Services Network (ESN), and some services are planned to be available starting in late 2017.

“The key thing for us is around quality, so we’re committed to rolling out the ESN and completing the transition as soon as possible but only when it’s acceptable to our users,” he said during a National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) call 26 October. “It will take as long as it will take so users are comfortable with services. We’ll go as fast as we can as long as the users are with us.”

Earlier this year, U.K. officials said the transition from the nationwide TETRA network to the LTE network would begin next year with the ESN fully adopted and in use by all three emergency services by the end of 2019.

Hewlett is responsible for two of the three contracts associated with the ESN, which will use a commercial LTE network with enhancements and offer 97 percent coverage across Great Britain. Commercial mobile operator EE won the Lot 3 mobile service contract, and Motorola Solutions received the Lot 2 contract for user services for the network that will be used by more than 300,000 emergency and public service officials from more than 300 agencies.

EE created a reference system to test capabilities of the network, such as priority access and pre-emption, which will initially use the LTE Release 12 platform. The reference system is a replica of the live system with all the components and true redundancy, but is not as large as a real system.

“The reference system will prove to users we have tested this so when they go live they are confident the system will give them the grade of service they need,” Hewlett said.

The full public-safety network comprises 18,000 eNodeBs from Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), an evolved packet core (EPC) and the reference system using EE’s 800 MHz and 1.8 and 2.6 GHz spectrum. The LTE service will fall back to 3G and then 2G when necessary. An air-to-ground network and upgrades for resilience are planned.

“Our analysis is we are not going to have network congestion very often because of the amount of spectrum and base station intelligence,” Hewlett said. “We have tested the pre-emption and access capability on EE’s reference system.”

The Home Office is directly managing coverage by acquiring and building sites in areas with no 4G coverage so EE can add eNodeBs and fill coverage in remote locations. The extended coverage includes remote parts of Scotland, Wales and England with no cellular service, and it is expected that the service will eventually be available to commercial users without public safety’s pre-emption and priority services.

Motorola Solutions will offer public-safety users the following features: push-to-talk (PTT) group and point-to-point communications, person down capability (emergency button), and public-safety one-to-one and group messaging and video streaming.

The EE reference system connects directly to Motorola Solutions’ reference system, which is a replica of live user services. Motorola will provide a central service management system and a 24/7 help desk for users. Motorola will provide provisioning and ship subscriber identity modules (SIMs) with pre-emption and priority access to user organizations. A self-service portal will be available to avoid a large number of people manning phones, Hewlett said.

With a connection to Motorola Solutions’ Schaumburg, Illinois, USA, facility, public-safety functionality is available for use in a sandbox environment. U.K. officials have conducted PTT and talkgroup tests over the 3G network and successfully tested PTT on Samsung Galaxy smartphones. “It has now proven itself to be a functioning system,” he said. “This has been a positive week.”

Hewlett said network security has been a team effort with help from Britain’s best security experts, who traveled to Schaumburg to work with Motorola staff. “I recommend you make use of your cybersecurity experts for FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority), so the best is being applied to your solution,” he said to his American colleagues.

The United Kingdom divided the contract into small contracts for taxpayer savings. The government committed £1 billion (US$1.5 billion) to the ESN. The new network is expected to cost taxpayers less than half of the existing service, a Home Office statement said.

“We have a large investment from Treasury, so the cost of running ESMCP will be much less than Airwave,” Hewlett said. “By 2023 the investment will pay for itself. We can re-compete the contracts regularly.”

Airwave is the nationwide TETRA mission-critical voice network used by the country’s public-safety services. Motorola Solutions acquired Airwave last year. Motorola is building an interconnection system from TETRA to LTE to merge talkgroups based on its WAVE portfolio, Hewlett said.

In August, the U.K. government released a prior information notice (PIN) for devices to operate on the ESN. The PIN said the Home Department intends to establish a dynamic purchasing system (DPS) for use by the three emergency services and other ESN users. “The plan was to have users buy [devices], but we’re looking at that again,” he said.

About 130,000 Airwave devices; 400 mobile identification devices; 60,000 to 90,000 BlackBerrys; and 60,000 smartphones are in use by U.K. officials. In addition, 230 control rooms need to be upgraded, and 50,000 vehicles and 115 aircraft need to be fitted with new devices.

“ESMCP provides the ability to have all that functionality in one device,” Hewlett said. “It is an enabler for the way public safety will work in the U.K. to allow our public-safety community to do a more efficient and effective job. Technology will be the real enabler.”

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On 11/15/16, Muhumbulo Mmbengwa said:
Thanks for the update. It is good to see advancements of the critical communications to modern technologies.

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