ESN Seeks Input on Direct Mode Solution, Awards Vehicle Device Contract
Thursday, January 16, 2020 | Comments

The U.K. Emergency Services Network (ESN) notified suppliers that it continues to seek solutions for Long Term Evolution (LTE) direct mode capability for the U.K. public-safety broadband network.

Specifically, the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) seeks a TETRA-based remote speaker microphone (RSM) for a device-to-device (D2D) mode of operation with LTE devices, which are already contracted to be supplied by Samsung. D2D mode allows local communications without reliance on network infrastructure.

“The long-term proposal for LTE is to use 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project) Proximity Services (ProSe) to address this requirement,” the notice said. “However, this cannot be implemented within the authority timescales (for reasons including the immaturity of the standards and the lack of support in current devices and networks). An alternative solution is therefore required to meet the D2D user requirement until such time as a standards-based ProSe solution can be introduced.”

In 2017, the U.K. Home Office awarded Samsung a £210 million (US$280.1 million) three-year contract to supply 250,000 smartphones and related accessories for use on ESN. Samsung developed and tested a ruggedized handheld device to ESN requirements with plans for testing and use by ESN user organizations.

The interim D2D/RSM solution is expected to consist of a device that will supplement the ESN device’s functionality as an integrated unit. The RSM/D2D device will act as an RSM coupled to the ESN LTE device.

ESMCP plans to enter into a market engagement exercise to discuss its potential requirements with potential D2D communications suppliers, so the authority may establish a commercial strategy for the supply of its potential requirements. The market engagement exercise does not form part of the potential procurement process or obligate the authority into forming a commercial strategy in a particular form.

A request for information (RFI) containing a number of questions that the authority welcomes response to will be provided to interested suppliers. The RFI closing date for responses is 5 February, after which the project will use the information to inform its discussions internally and for the purpose of market engagement meetings with potential suppliers. A contract notice is expected to be published by 1 October. The full announcement is here.

The U.K. Home Office also selected Handsfree Group as a supplier to provide fixed vehicle devices (FVD) and associated accessories to the ESN and other user operator emergency communities. The estimated total value under the framework agreement is up to £140 million (US$183 million) and 40,000 devices for the period including all potential contract extensions across the ESN.

“Our state-of-the art ESN solutions will provide a suite of integrated solutions and compatible applications that will deliver mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) voice and high-speed data services to the three emergency services communities by the first quarter of 2021,” said Matthew Johnson, managing director. “Our world-first innovative mission-critical communications systems have been developed through extensive R&D (research and development) by Handsfree Group, alongside our strategic suppliers pei tel Communications, who are market leaders in fixed vehicle device manufacture, and Advantech, who are worldwide customized machine-to-machine specialists.”

The Home Office last month announced a similar contract with TST Systems, a consortium led by Thorcom Systems, partnering with Sonic Communication and Tioga.

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