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Start of ESN transition now scheduled for mid-2018

Date: 11th January 2017
Topic: News
Author: Sam Fenwick
Motorola Solutions, EE, ESN, ESMCP, KBR

Gordon_Shipley_CCW.jpgThe transition of the emergency services from the Airwave TETRA network onto the Emergency Services Network (ESN) is now expected by the Emergency Services Mobile Services Communications Programme (ESMCP) to begin at the earliest in mid-2018. Previously, other media outlets reported that the first region to transition, the North West region, was due to start its transition in March 2018. While Land Mobile was able to confirm at the time that it had been delayed until at least December 2017, it was not able to independently verify this later date.

According to a source with knowledge of the matter, who spoke with Land Mobile under the condition of anonymity, as part of a programme update on December 16th by Gordon Shipley (pictured right), programme director, ESMCP at the Home Office, ESMCP introduced a new milestone for the project called Service Ready. This is when all functions and features including service management have been delivered, allowing the emergency services to begin major operational trials. This is now planned to be reached in April 2018.

The source has also told Land Mobile that there will also be two months of verification to confirm that what was tested on the reference system has been delivered on the ground.

They add that should this process be successful and the Service Ready milestone be met on time, the first regions to begin their transition to ESN will now start to do so in mid-2018 and that this delay will take the last regions to transition past the December 2019 Airwave switch-off date. However, ESMCP has also told the source that Airwave will continue until the emergency services have completed their transition onto ESN and that it has agreed a monthly charge with Airwave to keep it running.

Land Mobile approached the Home Office for comment. In response, a Home Office spokesperson said: “"The new Emergency Services Network (ESN) will provide the dedicated teams who work so hard protecting the public and saving lives with the most advanced communications system of its kind anywhere in the world.

“We have worked closely with our core suppliers, Motorola and EE, and we are working with the emergency services, to determine the best approach to major operational trials and to make sure that transition to the new network happens as soon as is technically and operationally feasible.

“This is cutting-edge technology, however, and we have always said that we will not be taking any risks with public safety and so Airwave will continue until the emergency services have completed transition on to ESN.”

The statement went on to say that the Home Office now envisages that the ESN system will be ‘Service Ready’ – the point at which the entire ESN system, including the service management function, would be in place and available for major operational trials by the emergency services – by Spring 2018. It is working with the emergency services to determine the best approach to those trials but it believes that the earliest emergency services organisations will then transition onto ESN will be mid-2018.

In related news, Ofcom has granted EE two licence variations, whicb the MNO requested last year to support its ability to provide ESN based on its LTE network, following a consultation.

The two variations are of EE’s Spectrum Access 2100 MHz licence to permit the use of LTE technology in the unpaired frequencies 1899.9 to 1909.9 MHz and a variation of its Spectrum Access 800 MHz/2.6 GHz and 1800 MHz licences to permit the use of mobile transmit frequencies to connect additional temporary base stations to its network at powers up to 31 dBm equivalent isotropically radiated power (EIRP) in the 800 MHz and 1800 MHz bands for use as gateways for ESN.

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