back to article UK emergency crews get 4G smartmobes as monkeys attempt to emerge from Reg's butt

The British emergency services are to be equipped with 4G phones thanks to a new handheld device contract with Samsung worth up to £210m. The deal with the South Korean company will last for at least three years, with a potential to provide up to 250,000 phones, which is part of a continuing £1.2bn project to replace the …

Anonymous Coward

Do they have replaceable batteries?

If not then this is a complete waste of public money.

I'm also not holding my breath on the 97% coverage and fully expect the Airwave contract to be extended.

Sorry if this is a bit cynical but this is how the world works when it comes to public spending.

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If not then this is a complete waste of public money.

Not necessarily. It is basic accounting. If it is a consumer device (albeit slightly hardened), its depreciation is ~ 3 years. If its battery lasts for at least 3 years, then the bean-counting approach to it says it's fine. This differs from the older police radios which were designed to be bomb-proof and had significantly longer life expectancy to start off with.

The potential waste of public money is elsewhere. Is Samsung contracted to provide stock for X years and offer appropriate replacement models after that. I bet it is not. So the potential complete waste of money does not come from the battery side - it comes from the whole device becoming obsolete in ~ 3 years with no suitable replacement.

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Replaceable Battery

I think he means that the battery can be quickly swapped out when it's depleted so that the phone can continue to be used without having to leave it on charge, therefore leaving emergency staff without a communication device. I'm sure one of the standard features on a police radio is a battery that can be quickly swapped out for a fresh one while the dead one is put on charge.

I'm not sure exactly what model Samsung phones they will be provided with, but I would think being connected to a 4G network all day using all the new services they can now offer may deplete the battery rather quickly.

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Anonymous Coward

Even more important what happens when EE goes TITSUP ?

I wouldn't want to be in an emergency situation when that happens. TETRA has been pretty rock solid for me when I use it, although I don't use it as often as the police so they may think otherwise.

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Re: Replaceable Battery

I'm sure one of the standard features on a police radio is a battery that can be quickly swapped out for a fresh one while the dead one is put on charge.

Correct.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Replaceable Battery

In theory that applies to the current radios too, but I'm told that there are never enough spares at the start of a shift and anyway, it's a good excuse to pop back to the station for doughnuts.

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I would assume (probably shouldn't, but I will) that the device is connected to a portable battery pack which allows the device to charge up when power < 50%, at the end of a shift or when they hit the station to fill in all the paperwork they can just switch the battery pack with another and stick their depleted one on charge.

Though I would again assume (again, probably shouldn't) that the device in question won't be a cute little thin thing, but a big beefy bugger with room for a rather large battery, large enough to handle a 12 hour shift.

On the other hand, giving this contract to Samsung might bring a whole new meaning to Hot Fuzz, what with their previous form on batteries.

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~£100/device isn't bad at all.

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Maths

isn't £210million / 250k devices equal to £840 per device?

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Re: Maths

I rounded to 250m / 250k.

But yes, it is.

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You mean £1000 / device.

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i assume this is total cost i.e. rollout, training, spares, running costs. without a current cost of ownership we cant really comment on cost effictiveness.

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Re: Maths

£400 per device is the kickback for the procurement officer, pretty standard these days

How else is the guy gonna pay off his mortgage

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Coverage

Currently only 70 per cent of the UK's landmass is covered by British mobile operator EE's 4G network. This needs to be increased to 97 per cent to match Airwave's coverage.

Obviously this will happen in the very near future. Yippee - there is a magic money tree after all!

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Paris Hilton

Re: Coverage

Why don't they use this?

https://anywheresim.com/

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Re: Coverage

Why don't they use this?

https://anywheresim.com/

Because a single contractor (in this case EE) is responsible for provision of a cellular network for ESN to run on. The fact that it will be implemented as something with elevated privileges and enhanced security on top of a network that's used by the public is a point of detail.

'Any network' SIMs would mean that gov would need a contract with *every* network provider, which increases costs by order(s) of magnitude

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Re: gov would need a contract with *every* network provider

Indeed. And if the government had even the slightest bit of negotiating savvy, it would say

"Nice airwaves you're using there. Want to keep using them? Give us access for free for emergency services or we're taking them away and giving them to someone who does."

You can do things like that when you're a government. Unfortunately ours either hasn't worked that out - in which case they're stupid - or has decided not to in the interests of greasing certain wheels - in which case they're corrupt.

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Re: gov would need a contract with *every* network provider

Or because stealing something without cause from the private sector would be seen as hostile by said private sector.

Such a government would quickly find that foreign investment dries up and companies run a mile.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Give us access for free for emergency services

Or because stealing something without cause from the private sector would be seen as hostile by said private sector.

Thin end of a wedge. What comes next? "Hey Mr. Utility Company - we expect you to let emergency services have free heat and light"....then "well, it's not just the emergency services who are acting for the public good - all of local government expects to have free heat and light....oh, and water and sewerage...and telephony...."

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Re: Give us access for free for emergency services

What comes next? "Hey Mr. Utility Company - we expect you to let emergency services have free heat and light".

That is broadly how it works in the energy sector, in respect of most government policies. But rather than shareholder's paying, it just gets added to your bill. So the government's "energy company obligation", of free boilers and insulation for selected groups, that's added to your bill. The discounts for selected pensioners, that's added to your bill. The fines for sometimes failing to hand out enough boilers? Added to your bill. Wind turbines, added to your bill by the expedient of legally requiring energy suppliers to buy 20% of their energy from "renewable" sources. Solar PV? Suppliers legally required to pay the PV owners about five times or more the market value of power generated, and that cost added to your bill. Hinkley Point? A direct cash subsidy added to your bill in a convoluted way. Smart meters? A legal requirement on suppliers to fit them, and add the total cost to everyones bills.

If our artgraduatocracy had, instead of continuous dabbling to "save the world from climate change", had merely demanded free energy for its own use, your electricity bill would be about 35% lower than it is. And they wouldn't need all the subsidies to people unable to afford the hulking rises in the cost of electricity. As somebody with experience working in strategy and policy in this sector for a large supplier, that's a fairly accurate guesstimate by moi.

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Re: Coverage

I believe this is already in place and has been for years.. certain people and security services. have phones that can and do use any network. these phone/simcards have to be authorised by the home office.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Give us access for free for emergency services

Hey Mr Utility company - we expect you to let the fire brigade have free water when fighting a fire .....

I think we can all agree that is quite a good idea. In fact using that water is an assumption on the part of the water department as being a cost of doing business.

Adding a free emergency services access condition to mobile operators licenses (when they are renewed) would seen to be a very pragmatic move and easy to justify based on the precedent.

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Re: You are correct...

It is correct, we should not force these companies to give free services. So when your house is burning down, please wait for the cheque to the water board to clear before calling the fire brigade. 7-10 days is the usual time.

Oh, but if they have an ounce of decency, they may allow the fire brigade to use some water to save lives (though arguably property is a different thing). "Cost" and "charge" tends to depreciate to zero when life and death are involved. Try selling an iPhone X to someone on a desert island with no reception and the need for some food and water...

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Re: gov would need a contract with *every* network provider

Easier to tie it in to the upcoming 5G auction and make the provision of comms for the blue light services outside of EE coverage a condtion of the bids. So if you're in deepest Wales or Scotland or some even parts of London and can't get an EE signal you can still access an available network. It's probably not that easy though.

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Re: Coverage

I believe this is already in place and has been for years.. certain people and security services. have phones that can and do use any network. these phone/simcards have to be authorised by the home office.

Not that I'm aware of although you may know different. What I think you're referring to was a system called Access Overload Control or ACCOLC that allowed the mobile networks after being instructed to do so to put measures in place to restrict access. The Cabinet Office was the authorising body for ACCOLC registration which ties in with what you said. People with simcards that were specially provisioned are allowed to continue to use their mobile even if the rest of the people in the area can't. This system has now been replaced by MTPAS which is similar. You can of course still make calls to the emergency services even if your phone won't call another phone because of MTPAS/ACCOLC.

Obviously priority should be given to first responders etc. The last time I believe that ACCOLC was used was during the 7/7 bombings in London.It used to be the case that senior network engineers at the mobile networks were always provisioned to be able to make calls in the even of the system being activated. I don't know if this is the case now although it would seem obvious to have considered it.

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Re: Coverage

You might bear in mind, as I've mentioned before against one of these articles, Airwave and EE have completely different definitions of in coverage. For Airwave you a location is in coverage if there is coverage right there where you are standing (outside only), for EE you are in coverage if you can make a call somewhere with 100m of the location. This makes a very big difference as it means a police officer may need to move away from an incident to use their radio. EE effectively has no chance of providing equivalent cover to Airwave which is what the emergency services have been told they will get.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: gov would need a contract with *every* network provider

The airwaves belong to the country. The companies paid (apart from O2 and Vodafone for some of their original space) for the exclusive right to use those frequencies. Nothing would be stolen from them if this sensible approach were taken.

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Re: gov would need a contract with *every* network provider

large contracts like this are usually sorted on golf courses where a school chum now works for company x and would dearly like a billion dollar deal. it just so happens that the ministers daughter would like to get married in the bahamas. how lucky the school chum had a cancellation for a wedding on the same weekend.

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Re: Coverage

they only need to deal with 3 networks O2, EE and vodafone (no point with 3 as most of there masts are shared with EE mostly or O2 or vodafone any way)

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Re: Coverage

4g is quite good at working all the way to -130 signal i find my phone hanging onto no bars and internet and call still working on 4g (assuming the phone does not drop to 2g 3g and then lose signal completely as they have less sensitivity then 4g )

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Re: Give us access for free for emergency services

At renewal would certainly be reasonable. But that wasn't what the original poster was proposing.

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Re: Give us access for free for emergency services

"Hinkley Point? A direct cash subsidy added to your bill in a convoluted way. "

The only problem with Hinkley point is that there's only one of them.

If you do the math on the electricity demands based on:

1: Shutting down all existing carbon emitting electricity sources. (this is only 30% of carbon emssions)

Whilst also

2: Shutting down all carbon-emitting heating systems (gas and oil) - & replacing them with electricity

3: Moving transportation to mostly electric

4: Moving carbon-emitting industrial processes (process heat, kilns, etc) to electric sources.

Then the overall demand increase works out at 6-8 times higher than current levels, whilst all the renewables you can possibly deploy in the UK will only match the generation capacity that you lost in number 1 above.

Something's gotta give and I'd prefer that new generation capacity was ready _BEFORE_ the lights start going out (why do you think those smart meters are being forced on us?)

Yes, molten-salt nuclear generation would be better on any number of grounds but it's unlikely to be ready for commercial deployment for around 20 years and then it'll take 10 years to build the plants. We don't have the luxury of waiting 30 years - and when the MSR plants are ready they can digest the waste from conventional water/gas-moderated nuclear installations anyway.

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Go

Just curious

If they already have a Network with 100% coverage, cant they switch that over to being a 4G Network directly. I have no clue about the Airwave Network or what it runs on, but isnt it possible to just Switch over the Transmitter to a 4G version on the Tower and then you have your 100% 4G coverage as well? Or am i missing something like the 4G doesnt reach as far or ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just curious

Different frequencies

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Stop

Re: Just curious

The Airwave system is an old creaky thing that runs the TETRA system. The system they are moving to, eTETRA, runs on a modified LTE specification that adds the bells and whistles that the emergency services need. Chances are the TETRA system is not running with Software Definable Radios which would enable such a switch-over as it would have been built on fairly specific hardware with similarly specific processors and whatnot, none of which is compatible with the new system. Add to which the system may well be on a different frequency band, which may well require different antennas at the transmitting sites.

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Go

Re: Just curious

The Airwave system is an old creaky thing that runs the TETRA system. The system they are moving to, eTETRA, runs on a modified LTE specification that adds the bells and whistles that the emergency services need.

The Airwave systems is an old and creaky thing that works. The system they are moving to has fancy bells and whistles which are less useful than the core functionality of voice communication, and the price they are paying is that they lose that core functionality, along with all those fancy things, in many locations.

It's a bit like swapping the old bicycle you use to get to work for a car with a CD player, air conditioning and go faster stripes but which only starts some of the time. If you absolutely must get to work, then you are better off sticking with the bicycle until someone offers you a reliable car.

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Re: Just curious

> The Airwave systems is an old and creaky thing that works

I agree, but the <STOP> was for "just flick a switch and turn TETRA into LTEish.

The bells and whistles added to LTE for ESN are more along the lines of adding stuff that they do in the existing system into the LTE spec for these purposes - e.g. PTT, and the ability for handsets to talk directly to eachother if there is no (working) infrastructure around that they might normally use - perhaps useful when emergency services are trying to get somewhere moderately inaccessible (by foot or by radio wave). Not entirely sure about the status of these features in the new equipment as it's been a while since I looked at them. My understanding of what was intended (originally!) was that they needed feature parity from TETRA to ESN, plus add some high bandwidth data bearers for funky things like video feeds.

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Re: Just curious

plus add some high bandwidth data bearers for funky things like video feeds

The emergency services had seen how successful feature creep was for military hardware, and thought "let's have some of that!".

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Re: Just curious

@ lglethal: Would that it were that simple!

Once upon a time Police radios were just that; radios. As time passed there were enormous technological developments (not least in the field of miniaturisation) so that now a modern radio (or cellphone for that matter) is a much smaller package than it used to be, and very little of that package is actually radio; most of the space is given over to the hardware needed to process the software requirements that the overall specification demands.

Any trunked system needs a colossal amount of background work to be done unseen by the actual user so unless the different systems have very similar (or even identical) software specifications the opportunities for "repurposing" just by a simple frequency change are more or less non - existent.

Start adding more features that the user "needs" (pardon my cynicism) and the situation gets even more complicated.

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Are we sure this is UK and not England?

Are we sure this is UK-wide given the devolved nature of some of the emergency services?

Also, how bad is the coverage going to be in Scotland, where I wager most of the dead space is?

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Re: Are we sure this is UK and not England?

> Are we sure this is UK-wide given the devolved nature of some of the emergency services?

Here in the far north-west of Scotland, they have just erected a new mast, apparently to "fill a gap" for this implementation. The fact that the mast was erected on a private landowner's land (nice little earner), and that apart from that landowner and his paying deer shooters, no-one is near by, is, I am sure, just a technical detail. Meanwhile 10 miles away, where there are larger (by local standards) clusters of population, an area 40 miles long by 10 miles wide, in hilly terrain, is served by just two masts. There are sections along the road where people park to make and receive calls, because the coverage, even in the townships and settlements, is so awful. Locals on EE only use their phones when away from the area.

The official response is probably to shrug and say "We did say 97%".

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Re: Are we sure this is UK and not England?

That's why the Home office has bunged EE over £1 billion to fill out the network, especially in areas like here in the north-west of Scotland. From the rate of new tower construction going on at the moment I'd say it looks like they'll manage it. Not all will be open to use by the public though. There is one being built for example on Loch Torridon that will provide ESN service only, not public 4G coverage.

BT has really pulled a fast here though - the tax payer pays for it not only to build out in remote 'uneconomic' areas, but to leapfrog the competitors with 4G implementation from which it can reap all the future profits.

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Hmm, some gentle moving of the goalposts here. When I met John Lewis, COO of Airwave he told me that it was 99% landmass, not 97%. What's more because Airwave is ~400MHz it caries well out to sea. Going LTE has siginficant coverage problems. They may be addressed by using device to device communications, so that the police can talk to each other in areas outside of coverage, but Release 14 doesn't support groups through a repeater so it's not functionally as good Airwave.

And going LTE gives a huge problem with the London Underground. All the bluster from the Mayor on providing 4G coverage on the tube is really about making sure this works. The underground now (after more than a decade of teething problems) uses a similar system to airwave. Moving the police to LTE breaks that.

@lglethal The new ESN can't just more to the Tetra frequencies Airwave is on because there isn't the bandwidth. Tetra only does voice and messaging, there is a theoretical data rate of 9600bps but in reality it's 1200bps.. Trying to run LTE in that spectrum wouldn't work. You can't even just do 2G voice because for the push to talk requires VoLTE and so it's all 4G.

Like the initial commetard I too expect the Airwave contract to be extended for the forseeable.

What's not being said in this announcement is that the Samsung deal is one in the eye for Motorola (which owns Airwave), and is probably (I've no inside knowledge on this) suggesting dual-mode Tetra/LTE devices.

BT and Samsung who have the contract going forward will be telling the Government that this is Motorola being technology laggards and just trying to line its pockets.

It's actually the pragmatic approach.

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When I met John Lewis, COO of Airwave he told me that it was 99% landmass, not 97%

John Lewis - never knowingly undersold

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I think the term 'phone' is incorrectly being used and it should be 'device'. Lets be clear this is a terminal which has to be suitable in all weathers and hardened to be able to be treated roughly. It will (probably) be similar to what they currently have from Motorola rather than a Galaxy S8 type device.

This is only for the first wave of handsets, for the first 3 (with a possible extension to 4) years. After that when the MCPTT and other standards are complete by 3GPP more devices will probably be available.

I doubt this will be capable of video, currently MCVoice is top of the list to get working well. As the UKESN matures then more devices with different capabilities will be available.

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Anonymous Coward

ESN is a clusterfuck. At least Motorola didn't manage to crowbar their way into the handset contract.

I hope things have changed since I was involved, but the PTT functionality was a abomination. I'd be worried for any plod relying on it.

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Goodbye Moto...

> At least Motorola didn't manage to crowbar their way into the handset contract

Different company entirely and has been for a while (early 2011). The Motorola supplying the ESN is the last remnants of the company which used to make all sorts and then basically got chopped up into unprofitable/dying bits.

There used to be a chipset manufacturing bit, now that's Freescale.

There used to be an automotive bit, sold to Continental a long time ago

There used to be a "Wireless Infrastructure Division", but this was internally fragmented into IDEN & CDMA for the (at the time) lucrative N. America market, TETRA (lucrative) and "proper" mobile phone networks (GSM, UMTS and LTE). IDEN was taken out the back and shot. The "proper" mobile infrastructure bit plus CDMA was gradually eroded by Huawei and eventually bought by Nokia before being shuttered, that left the TETRA bit. This became "Motorola Solutions", which is what is supplying ESN.

There used to be a handset division that made a lot of money out of the RAZR, but due to sheer shortsightedness then died due to too many platforms to support, plus no new products (thanks Ed Zander) resulting it becoming a tiny player that then got sold off for IPR to Google and then (less the IPR) to Lenovo.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Goodbye Moto...

Are these different Motorolas that you refer to effectively divisions of one larger company, or completely separate entities?

It seems interesting that Motorola are supplying ESN, and are also behind Airwave. So if Motorola fail to get ESN working on time, then Gov will have to pay more money to Motorola to keep Airwave running

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Re: Goodbye Moto...

Motorola split into Motorola Mobility ( handsets) and Motorola Solutions (network infrastructure). Two separate companies.

Motorola Solutions fragmented with bits being sold off and all that's left in that company is the TETRA stuff. It bought Airwave in 2015, I think, so yes, win-win for them there (barring any penalties EE can foist on them, which I doubt). At the time, Airwave were suing Moto over the award of the contract by HMG to Moto - I've no idea what the merits, or even facts, of their case were, but there are plenty of news reports to read.

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Re: Goodbye Moto...

That's what a relentless focus on quarterly profits gets you.

"Let's make 20 million now and forgo having a working company next year"

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