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Home Office signals ESN rollout will now begin in mid-2018

David Bicknell Published 24 January 2017

New date emerges as Home Office takes initial steps on new procurement process around measuring extent of 4G coverage on a mobile network

 

The Home Office has taken the first steps of a procurement process to measure the extent of 4G coverage on a mobile network for the forthcoming Emergency Services Network (ESN).

The move comes as the department this week confirmed that the network’s rollout would be delayed until mid-2018. Originally emergency services had been due to start using ESN in the North-West this autumn with regions switching over by the end of December 2019.

It is understood the rollout will now begin in the middle of  2018, though no month has been specified. Stress testing of the network is likely to take place in the early Spring of 2018 ahead of the summer rollout, Government Computing understands.

It was expected that there would need to be a large scale public test for ESN, ahead of the original Autumn 2017 rollout in the North-West. This could have been at the Notting Hill Carnival or perhaps the New Year celebrations. But so far, it is believed, no large scale trial has taken place. Trials on London Underground lines are also likely to be considered.

The Spring 2018 tests when they are undertaken are likely to be more day to day tests of the network rather than any large-scale event.

It is understood that the Home Office's Request for Information (RfI) outlining a requirement to provide assurance services to test coverage of the core ESN service issued late last week is designed to gauge what is available commercially in the market to measure the extent of 4G coverage on a mobile network.

The Home Office says it already knows from modelling tools what the predicted coverage of the new network is likely to be. But it is now looking for solutions to measure and compare predicted coverage with actual coverage, once ESN is in place.

Home Office sources said the RFI is the first step in the procurement process. If a number of companies say they have a solution that can measure network coverage, the Home Office will then consider any next steps.

It is understood that the Home Office is keen to insist that procuring a solution that assesses coverage of 4G LTE does not mean the capability of ESN has changed.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report last year concluded that ESN is inherently high risk. The findings suggested that ESN is the right direction strategically and its benefits should be substantial, but added that the business case is overly optimistic in its valuation of these.

A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report into upgrading emergency service communications is due to be published tomorrow.







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