The Home Office has revealed its plans to create a new contract to support the voice and broadband needs of the emergency services, which it hopes will be cheaper and smarter.
The Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme will see procurement for the new Emergency Services Network (ESN) begin this year with the view to award suppliers during 2015.
Voice and broadband services are currently provided to the emergency services under existing contracts with Airwave, which partners with a number of other suppliers in the industry.
These contracts are due to expire between 2016 and 2020, during which time network services will be transitioned to the new ESN.
“We expect this to rely on commercial networks, enhanced to provide national coverage, resilience and security with the possibly with public safety functionality,” said the Home Office.
The department hopes that the ESN will be more cost-effective than the previous arrangement and will take advantage of “future technological developments”, whilst still being flexible so that users can choose the services that are relevant to them.
In similar news, policing minister Damian Green said at the end of last year that the emergency services should collaborate more and share services, such as IT, to cut costs and improve operations.
To support collaboration efforts, Green also announced the availability of £20 million for this financial year. This is a “precursor” to the £50 million-a-year Police Innovation Fund due to be set up in 2014 that the government has previously announced to help drive greater integration of local emergency services.