Home Office Review Finds ESN on Track, Final Product by Late 2020

24th Oct 2018

A U.K. Home Office official said the Emergency Services Network (ESN) review was completed and found that the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) remains the right strategic approach to replacing Airwave, and the program continues to represent good value to money for the taxpayer.

The review, originally expected to be completed in July, analyzed a full range of options from continuing with the program according to the original plan to cancelling the program to identifying a new way forward.

“The review also concluded there is growing confidence in the technical viability of the solution, particularly given the improved software solution now being deployed,” said Philip Rutnam, Home Office permanent secretary in a letter to Meg Hillier, chair of the U.K. Parliament’s Committee of Public Accounts.

The review concluded however that a new delivery model is needed to ensure that the emergency services benefit from the new network as soon as possible. The program plan was previously based on completing the entire solution before users started transition; however, the review found that a better approach would be to deliver the ESN through the incremental release of products.

“This will allow our police officers, fire and rescue crews, paramedics and other users to choose the individual communications tools they want and need, and decide when they want them, rather than having to wait until every element of the new network is built,” Rutnam said.

The first ESN products are planned for early 2019, which will allow the emergency services to start testing and using them. A network coverage testing product, called ESN Assure, will be delivered to the emergency services by the end of 2018.

“We expect the first versions of critical voice and data products to be available from early 2019 with the final version of the product available by autumn 2020,” he said.

In September, the Home Office signed heads of terms with Motorola Solutions and EE. Revised contracts are expected by the end of the year.

The program is also proceeding with work to build coverage both in the London Underground, in remote areas — the Extended Area Services project — and with a procurement of an air-to-ground solution.

These planned dates compare with the original plan to start user transition in September 2017, which was subsequently shifted back nine months as a result of the CR110 contract changes. The Home Office negotiated an extension to the Airwave contract to the end of 2022, three years later than provided for in the original contract.

The program is looking to similar timescales to work up a revised full business case with a revised program plan and costs by year-end.

“Clearly, the delays in turning off Airwave mean that these costs will continue for longer, increasing costs over the life of the business case,” Rutnam said. “While the cost of the core system provided by [Motorola’] and EE have not materially changed, the program continues to refine the plans and costs for other parts of the solution, including the projects for which the Home Office is directly responsible — additional coverage, resilience, air-to-ground coverage and coverage in the London Underground.”

The full letter is here.

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