U.K. Public-Safety LTE Network Testing Continues, Device Contract to be Awarded in November
Tuesday, June 06, 2017 | Comments

The U.K. Emergency Services Network (ESN) staff continues to conduct tests and functional trials with commercial partners and has received final responses to a device procurement. The U.K. Home Office, which oversees the ESN, is working toward its pending transition from the narrowband TETRA Airwave network to EE’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) system.

The tests with EE, Motorola Solutions and others will continue through next spring. Major operational trials are planned for the second and third quarters of 2018. The transition is set to begin mid-2018 with a completion target of December 2019.

“We will aim for these dates, but it’s up to the users to determine if they’re ready to transition,” said Steve Whatson, deputy program director in charge of ESN user engagement for the U.K. Home Office. “It’s a joint endeavor between ourselves and the users.”

The current testing has included a demonstration of EE’s priority and pre-emption mechanisms on its commercial LTE network. Officials are working on an agreement for the detailed design, including more than 15 interfaces between EE and Motorola, and the bearer mapping design. The parties are also testing the emergency services push-to-talk (PTT) app.

Motorola Solutions Vice President of Software and Systems Enablement Jeff Spaeth discussed the WAVE PTT app following the company’s acquisition of PTT company Kodiak last month. He said Motorola’s over-the-top PTT application, WAVE 7000, is being integrated into EE’s network.

LTE Release 12 technology is in the phones, and users are testing the reference system. Motorola is leading failover testing, with EE supporting the work. In addition, several suppliers are testing applications on devices using the EE and Motorola reference system.

The device procurement began 31 March, and responses were due 19 May. Whatson said the Home Office had 20 expressions of interest, but he expected only about five companies to respond to the procurement.

The Home Office will decide on devices in November, and a framework for devices is planned to be in place by January. EE and Motorola will approve user devices and accessories, expected to include handheld, vehicle, gateway and aircraft units. The devices can be dual mode incorporating TETRA as well as LTE technology, Whatson said.

Considering that Motorola is a device maker, a common concern by other suppliers is that Motorola might favor its own devices. But EE staff will undertake testing as well, Whatson said.

EE’s network includes about 19,000 sites, and the Home Office is managing a project to build about 230 additional sites in 38 remote areas with challenging topography. The project also includes upgrading the United Kingdom’s 200 control rooms.

To handle the large undertaking, the Home Office ESN staff has grown to 330, an increase from about 30 Home Office staff who managed Airwave. The user groups that are helping with the testing include about 15 to 18 public-safety officials across police, fire and ambulance services with representation from each U.K. geographic region. Constable Richard Morris oversees the user team.

Whatson said the LTE network will meet all user, system and commercial requirements “but not necessarily in the same way as Airwave.”

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On 6/7/17, Animesh Basu said:
This implementation — if successful which it is likely to be, initial hiccups notwithstanding — will I fear see the gradual demise of TETRA. The timeframe for TETRA appears to have shrunk to three years rather than the 10 years that was predicted. I hate to see the demise of this best-in-breed professional mobile radio (PMR) solution. But I guess technology must move on.

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