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Home Office wants supplier input on emergency services D2D comms procurement

David Bicknell Published 15 June 2017

Department says an interim device to device communications solution is needed as alternative to 3GPP Proximity Services (ProSe), partly because standards are immature


The Home Office says it wants to know more about market options for device-to device (D2D) communications for the Emergency Services Network (ESN).

It follows plans by the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) to provide an integrated critical voice and broadband data communications service for the UK's emergency services that is configured to give them priority over other users.

It has issued a pre-tender for the communications explaining that the procurement of handheld devices is underway, with separate market engagements planned for vehicle devices, various accessories and for D2D communications devices. It also intends that supporting services for handheld devices will be provided as a result of a separate procurement.

The Home Office documentation points out that user requirements call for a D2D mode of operation for local communication without reliance on the network. The long-term proposal for Long Term Evolution (LTE) is to use 3GPP Proximity Services (ProSe) to address this requirement. But, it adds, this cannot be implemented within the planned timescales for reasons that include the immaturity of the standards and the lack of support in current devices and network.

The pre-tender says an alternative solution is therefore needed to meet the D2D user requirement until a standards-based ProSe solution can be introduced. It adds that except for D2D, the principal communications features will be provided by the ESN device, and the interim D2D solution is expected to consist of a device, which will supplement the ESN device's functionality, either as a standalone or ‘integrated’ unit.

The Home Office says the quantities of devices and timescales are to be advised and will be informed by the market engagement.

The department said it plans to issue a Request for Information (RFI) to interested suppliers containing a number of questions that the Home Office would welcome a response to. The closing date for the RFI will be the close of business on July 14. The Home Office plans to engage on an individual basis with potential suppliers and also plans to hold market engagement meetings between July and August 4.

Discussing the development of standards and technologies for mission critical communications, Paul Ward, international sales diector for Etelm, which was exhibiting at this week's 5G World event as part of the London Tech Week Show said, “Although LTE will provide some exciting new features for emergency services, it is essential that it is proven to be ‘mission critical ready’ before it is fully introduced.

"It would be unwise to replace existing functionality that is present today with any new technology, unless it is fully proven and tested to provide equivalent and improved services. The recent tender from ESN for D2D equipment illustrates that although the LTE standards for mission critical communications are being introduced, they are still immature and not yet ready to be implemented by vendors,  and the timescales required under the ESN programme may be too short for the technology to be fully standardised, developed and tested in the demanding environment required with first responder communications.

"In our opinion a gradual migration of technologies is far less risky – in the interests of public safety, as it ensures established services are retained whilst new technologies are introduced – this allows new technologies time to mature and for users to become more familiar with the new devices before complete replacement, and ensures all services and functionality are retained.”

ETELM is one of a number of companies involved with first stage interoperability testing with 3GPP of mission critical services over LTE. It believes this is a long term process which will take several years to complete as new enhanced LTE MC (mission critical) standards are introduced and tested by manufacturers.


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