back to article Britain mulls 'complete shutdown' of 4G net for emergency services

The UK government is contemplating "a complete or a partial shutdown" of its ambitious programme to shift blue-light services from bog-standard radio to 4G, The Register can reveal. The Home Office's Emergency Services Mobile Communication Programme (ESMCP) was supposed to replace today's Motorola-owned Airwave radio service …

  1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Still waiting

    for a big government contract to come in on time and/or under budget.

    1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

      Re: Still waiting

      Just wait until we build our own GPS system....what could go wrong

      1. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: Still waiting

        Just wait until we build our own GPS system

        In the event of a failure, I'm sure we'll be able to locate the culprits.

        Oh, hang on...

        1. AMBxx Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Still waiting

          Because the EU's own is going so well:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_(satellite_navigation)#Funding_again,_governance_issues

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: a big government contract to come in on time and/or under budget.

      Don't worry, there's one promised Real Soon Now [1], as it is a pre-requisite for the flavour of Brexit currently known as Max Fac.

      [1] Let's emigrate before they raise the customs rate.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: the flavour of Brexit currently known as Max Fac

        er... in other news today , nearly all of UK industry has asked the government to stop pissing around with "max fac" as it's clearly a non-started and try and do some *real* work.

        https://www.eef.org.uk/about-eef/media-news-and-insights/media-releases/2018/may/industry-calls-for-max-fac-option-to-be-dropped

    3. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: Still waiting

      Still waiting for _any_ outsourced contract of something moderately complex to come in on time and/or budget.

      The problem is outsourcing. Your only chance of making outsourcing work is when you have one person for every 5-10 people in the outsourcing company embedded in their team.

      1. monty75

        Re: Still waiting

        you have one person for every 5-10 people in the outsourcing company

        That usually means you had a 1:1 ratio to start with and then the outsourcing company's "land and expand" strategy kicked in.

      2. Milton Silver badge

        Re: Still waiting

        "Your only chance of making outsourcing work is when you have one person for every 5-10 people in the outsourcing company embedded in their team."—Christian Berger

        No idea why you got a downvote, Mr Berger, because you are absolutely correct. We could perhaps debate the ideal ratio of salaried employees to outsourced workers, but my experience is that outsourcing rapidly turns to shyte unless the customer is willing, ready and able to manage the outsourcer strongly, fearlessly and competently.

        The outsourcing pattern is sadly well known:

        1. Outsourcer sends 'A' team of saleslizards to lie to gullible execs of potential customer, who want to hear how big their bonuses will be for the huge cost savings promised by aforementioned reptiles.

        2. Agreement rushed without proper consideration, planning, contingency, contract penalties and attention to detail. Execs drool about bonuses; technical staff are one big facepalm.

        3. Outsourcer sends 'B' team to begin work. Amazing amounts of money begin to flow in one direction. Technical staff desperately try to maintain standards, processes, QA but find that execs of their company listen to outsourcer's liaison suits, not their own staff.

        4. Execs try to save even more cash by allowing outsourcer to manage itself. Outsourcer withdraws 'B' team and starts to infiltrate 'C' and 'D' personnel, still charging 'A' rates and training their own staff at your company's expense. Even a 'D' outsourcer employee knows how to invoice $21,644.32 for adding an extra comma to page 217 of a spec document.

        5. Execs collect bonuses, burnish CVs, move on to next victim before disaster unfolds.

        ...

        13. Company has long since lost most of its good, well-paid people who knew how its systems really worked. The company now exists as a life-support system for the outsourcer, which bleeds it white on a monthly basis. Periodic disasters unfold and they are always the fault of "that guy who just left".

        The only chance you ever had of doing outsourcing right was to manage the process properly right from the beginning, writing a knowledgeable contract in blood, and then breathing down the outsourcer's neck for every second of every day, insisting on having the 'A' team, mandating your standards, never allowing them to hide behind their own BS bureaucracy, making them feel the pain every single time they try to play games with you. (And ensuring the outsourcer's salepeople have mysterious mishaps in the car park before they can reach your executives, thereafter to take over their tiny, naive, greedy minds and f**k everything up.)

        If you cannot manage your company's IT department of dedicated well-paid professionals to do the necessary work, why in Offler's name do you imagine that you can do any better with a bunch of second-raters (if you're very lucky) whose only two interests are (a) how much they can rip you off, and (b) what excuses are you dumb enough to believe?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Still waiting

          Until recently I worked for a MSP, was privy to internal meetings where EXACTLY this was discussed.

          Can confirm this is 100% correct. My previous employer was not ashamed of it at all. Statements of Work were crafted deceptively, specifically to maintain a scope of work so narrow that the project could never be completed without additional billable work.

          Management thought this was just a huge game, joked about how much they'll make in additional work. I was rolled in as the 'A' team, win the work and then they'd find any old PFY off the street, chuck him in there at the same rate with a day's overlap with me for some sort of handover, and drag me off to the next customer they needed to impress.

          Took ~6mths to get outa there. Don't know how i'm going to explain that gap on my CV.

          I feel dirty.

          1. Stu Mac

            Re: Still waiting

            "Statements of Work were crafted deceptively, specifically to maintain a scope of work so narrow that the project could never be completed without additional billable work"

            Isn't it astonishing Public Sector still falls for this?!! Hopeless.

          2. Retired and happy

            Re: Still waiting

            I was working for a bidder to the ESMCP contract working out the programme plan and it was obvious to absolutely everyone involved that the timescale required was completely, totally unachievable. Nevertheless I was told to make the plan fit the requirements and everyone accepted that the plan was total fiction. The winning bid did the cynical same planning and won the contract. No one I ever spoke to thought there was a feline's chance in Hades that the ESMCP could be delivered as required in the ITT. No one can be surprised now that the reality has hit home.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Still waiting

        @Christian Berger

        or you Tupe across your staff, who know your business inside out and put in your infrastructure to your requirements, to the outsourcer and they then keep that team intact.

        Rare but does happen occasionally, the problem is that a few years on the originating company doesn't realise their outsourcer has a silent advantage having the original staff still working on the account and they move off to a new outsourcer who is cheaper and on paper well qualified to run the contracts but has zero account knowledge. The originating company see's it as a cost and has no idea of the detail or bespoked solution they currently enjoy.

        A slow motioned car crash.

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Re: Still waiting

          Surely the staff can then be TUPE'd across again?

          1. AlbertH

            Re: Still waiting

            Surely the staff can then be TUPE'd across again?

            Sadly, TUPE doesn't really work. It was inflicted on me several times. The usual scam is to offer exactly the same pay as the old job, then reduce it after 6 months because of "commercial considerations". By that time, you're thoroughly embedded into the new company, and your only option is to go looking for the same type of work elsewhere. Of course your old employer won't consider re-hiring you since you showed no loyalty to them.....

    4. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Still waiting

      Two examples

      Oyster Card

      Congestion Charge

      Both in London, and both overseen by Ken Livingstone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Still waiting

        There are actually plenty, you just never hear about them because they're boring and usually much smaller than the disasters. There's a lesson somewhere in that latter point.

        This case is particularly nuts because airwave worked and worked well, airwave ticked all the boxes for lessons learned from recent terror attacks, 4G could never ever even in the best case compete with airwave and the company bidding for the 4G contract simply *bought out the company running Airwave* so it could hike the prices to allow itself to win unopposed. Absolute bleeding insanity.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Still waiting

          This case is particularly nuts because airwave worked and worked well, airwave ticked all the boxes for lessons learned from recent terror attacks, 4G could never ever even in the best case compete with airwave and the company bidding for the 4G contract simply *bought out the company running Airwave* so it could hike the prices to allow itself to win unopposed. Absolute bleeding insanity.

          For good data services (which is what they currently lack) 4G would be excellent, provided it had the same geographical coverage. Currently it doesn't...

          Regarding the take over of Airwave, if the Government were truly pissed at being taken for a ride it can compel the transfer of ownership. It could nationalise Airwave, at a price of the government's choosing... I doubt that'll happen though; Airwave is a dead product, unsuitable to the needs of today's emergency services.

          To be honest, Airwave was always not ideal for the emergency services, but no one realised it at the time. For instance, for the police to let officers know what a suspect looks like they have to speak a description (which can be a surprisingly good way of doing it). Once upon a time the fact that that description could be securely broadcast on a widely receivable, well thought out voice network like Airwave seemed like a miracle.

          However, with the advent of mobile phones (not even smart phones, really; MMS has been around for a while...), speaking a description now seems antiquated. It really would be useful to be sent a decent picture of a suspect.

          Hitching a ride on smart phone and 3/4G network technology is about the only sane, affordable way of doing this. The only alternative is to do a bespoke network again (e.g. an Airwave 2), but to get it as functional as one would want it you'd basically just be developing a new mobile telephony standard from scratch for no good reason.

          1. alwallgbr

            Re: Still waiting

            "speaking a description now seems antiquated"

            Not when you are in pursuit either on foot or in a police vehicle. Voice is essential, there's no time to look at a screen, and it would be unsafe for a (usually) single crewed response driver.

        2. AlbertH

          Re: Still waiting

          Airwave doesn't work anywhere nearly as well as the old analogue radio. The "black spots" and "garble zones" are widespread.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Still waiting

        Both are unmitigated disasters.

        The Oyster Card bills correctly in about 20% of cases. It also randomly fails altogether in outlying Tube Stations late in the evening, leaving users to jump the barriers without "touching out" thereby ensuring that they are billed the maximum fare for their journey.

        The Congestion Charge still doesn't have reliable number-plate recognition, and there are still three rooms-full of Crapita employees (all sworn to silence) monitoring video screens and manually entering number plates.....

        Posted anon since I was forced to be part of the procurement processes for both of these SNAFUs.

    5. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Still waiting

      Just give every cop an iPhone X. Cost comes in at £1000 per unit. Saves poor bloody taxpayer £300 per annum. Apple is happy. Police are happy (until the screens break). Home Secretary [insert name here] is happy.

      There, FTFY.

      Oh and by the way, what happens when you need to switch off the entire 4G network because of another 7/7 incident?

      1. spr97ajm

        Re: Still waiting

        Joe Public gets kicked off the network to leave capacity for the emergency services.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No wonder #hashtag Amber Rudd hated techies.

      No wonder #hashtag Amber Rudd hated techies, and why techies hated...(I'll let you finish that sentence).

      Or do we blame Theresa May for this one?

      Capped Energy prices anyone? or just the Energy market as a whole. (Amber Rudd was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change previously)

      It seems like the new Home Secretary Sajid David will have his work cut out.

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Officially cancelled, then

    Yay government IT.

  3. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Im confuzzled

    So if instead of some wonder device that doesnt exist why didnt they invest the money in a Operate agnostic 4G data contract(s) and get COTS ruggedised tablets for the databit?

    Then use the money saved from not screwing up another Government IT programme to subsidise the costs of the Handsets.

    Given that we are now at peak phone prices (1000 for the latests handsets) - 1300 for something that just works where it needs to is beginning to look cheap.

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Im confuzzled

      So if instead of some wonder device that doesnt exist why didnt they invest the money in a Operate agnostic 4G data contract(s) and get COTS ruggedised tablets for the databit?

      For one, security - extra layers of security to protect sensitive data on the network. Secondly, coverage - aim of ESN is for nationwide 4G coverage (as emergencies can happen anywhere in the country) - and existing commercial networks don't provide that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Im confuzzled

        With current contracts, it's been built upon the EE network - it's not a new set of infrastructure, although they are expanding there own to accommodate some areas they currently don't have adequate coverage.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Im confuzzled

      Because the project was run by the Policing & Crime part of HomeOffice that put the emphasis on replacing push-to-talk Airwave TETRA radios with push-to-talk 4G mobile phones.

      Lot 2 ("User Services") is too big and unwieldy in its current form and should be split in to:

      2A) a 'thick' 4G MVNO that can be Radio Access Network (RAN) agnostic/independant and run by someone that knows what their doing; and

      2B) 'Voice Services', i.e. PTT, messaging, etc.

      G

    3. highwalker

      Re: Im confuzzled

      To take advantage of COTS devices, you have to expect COTS type warranty and lifetime on the components. So, you may ruggedise a tablet, but I doubt that the radio part would be warranted much over the usual 1 year. TETRA terminals can last 6 years with a mid-life refurb as the manufacturers have greater influence over the components.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Im confuzzled

        "[specialist devices] can last 6 years with a mid-life refurb as the manufacturers have greater influence over the components."

        Thanks for signing up specially to make that contribution. A decade or two ago I'd have accepted that there's potentially some validity in "[specialist device] manufacturers have greater influence over the components.".

        Is that still a plausible claim (in comparing commodity vs niche, or even consumables vs assets) these days? Would you like to justify it, in a world dominated by management who think that "go cheap+mainstream or go out of business" applies everywhere (it's even in the financial comparisons in this article and comments, there's a great deal of focus on up-front price and very little focus on lifecycle value).

        A company designing and buying on the scale of Samsung gets to influence things, and they get to influence them to change every few months too. What small(ish)-scale designer/buyer can influence COTS suppliers to stay compatible over a few years?

        I'm typing this on a business class laptop from much earlier in the decade. It has lots of allegedly customer interchangeable/replaceable/upgradable parts, including the radio module(s). No one ever actually upgrades them because it's not what IT people do, and it's not what keeps the up front costs down.

        At the other end of the market, consider the same logic as applied to the simple PIR floodlight. Paying a bit more than the cheapeast for a design that would be a little more reliable would be commercially sensible in some circumstances. It's no longer a realistic option because the "fit the cheapeast LED and throw it all away when it fails" approach has largely forced the decent suppliers/products out of business.

        According to the Telegraph, the Home Office has already appointed Simon Ricketts, formerly CIO of the Rolls Royce (aircraft engines not cars) subsidiary Controls+Data Services (?), as their supervisory consultant/troubleshooter for the Airwave replacement recovery programme. Aircraft engines aren't COTS, and they aren't low cost, but their design and manufacturing processes used to be very rigorous.

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: Im confuzzled

          I can vouch that Tetra handsets last longer than six years. Who wants to bet that their 4G mobile will survive six years?

          As a starting point Tetra handsets have removable batteries (and need to, because they're expected to run continuously for 30 hours or more).

        2. highwalker

          Re: Im confuzzled

          [Is that still a plausible claim (in comparing commodity vs niche, or even consumables vs assets) these days?]

          [A company designing and buying on the scale of Samsung gets to influence things, and they get to influence them to change every few months too. What small(ish)-scale designer/buyer can influence COTS suppliers to stay compatible over a few years?]

          Lots of points made. Note that I'm not claiming that a small manufacturer can influence COTS. In the case of the niche area (TETRA), note that it isn't COTS and the relatively low volumes mean that the handset manufacturers have to build a platform that is configurable and will last many years - you have to be able to amortise the capex over the lifetime of the model. The relatively specialised components for TETRA radios (narrowband, tight tolerance) mean that each manufacturer is likely to have built long terms relationships with their suppliers that they will have some, possibly quite deep, relationship with . Also, Public Safety users tend to appreciate handsets that work even if they have been run over by a car or spent an hour or so in a burning building, so trust/brand counts for a lot. I understand from FOI requests that TETRA handsets get sold by the manufacturers for under GBP300

          In the case of a volume consumer manufacturer (e.g. Samsung) that makes more phones in a day than two year's worth of European public safety handset supply, why are they going to redesign a chassis or request a public-safety specific component modification that would necessarily apply to nearly all handsets if it put more than $0.10 on the cost of the device - which would immediately be $30M off the bottom line.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Im confuzzled

      So if instead of some wonder device that doesn't exist why didn't they invest the money in a Operate agnostic 4G data contract(s) and get COTS ruggedised tablets for the databit?

      The handsets are not the issue. The issue is that all existing 4G networks fail to cover geographical areas where Airwave does currently work. The telephony market has no commercial interest in covering large areas of empty land (which is what Britain mostly is), and I can imagine that it's looking very expensive to persuade a company to do it.

      Operator agnosticism isn't really an option either at present - there's nothing like that allowed for in the mobile telephony standards. A mobile phone can seamlessly handover between cells in the network it's a member of, but to handover between networks means dropping all current connections and doing a RACH with that new network. Not something you want to be happening whilst in an emergency situation.

      One option would be for all existing mobile networks to be forcibly merged into a single national network, and every provider (Vodafone, EE, etc) becomes a virtual network on top (like Tesco, GiffGaff are OTT providers on someone else's network). That would give you "operator agnosticism" simply by making it so that there is only one physical network, really. But it still wouldn't solve the geographical coverage problem. It could become a financial means to get all existing network providers to chip in a contribution to expanding the network - something like an expansion tax billed to all the virtual network operators.

      1. Smooth Newt
        Meh

        Re: Im confuzzled

        One option would be for all existing mobile networks to be forcibly merged into a single national network, and every provider (Vodafone, EE, etc) becomes a virtual network on top (like Tesco, GiffGaff are OTT providers on someone else's network). That would give you "operator agnosticism" simply by making it so that there is only one physical network, really.

        4G simply cannot provide excellent coverage, especially inside buildings, without a high density of base stations. Physics. The signals have to reflect and diffract through small openings within buildings having already been attenuated. You need long wavelengths, high power and low data rates. 4G uses short wavelengths, low power and high data rates.

        I am not sure why the Government ever thought this was a good idea. Maybe they should have had a word with an RF engineer first.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Im confuzzled

          "I am not sure why the Government ever thought this was a good idea. "

          They want data transmission, as well as voice. As others have pointed out, that which makes Airwave good in terms of reception, also means it's not so good for data. At some point they had to make a compromise, and politics being as it is they chose the worst option.

  4. Lee D Silver badge

    FFS.

    Spend half that money on 4G contracts.

    Then spend the other half on buying everyone forty cheap mobile smartphones each.

    Keep paying for Airwave for a year or two until someone comes up with a way to mark those smartphones as emergency priority phones.

    Honestly, £1300 a device is a piss-take, on top of hundreds of millions of pounds to get a basic comms system running over an existing data network.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      £1300 a device is a piss-take,

      I think that is the equivalent per-year cost of the set and the infrastructure.

      Most folk pay 1/10 to 1/3 of that for (crappy) 3G/4G phone coverage and handset, but the Airwave infrastructure dose not have anything like the same total number of users to cover costs.

  5. }{amis}{ Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Why only 4G??

    I don't get the requirement for 4g the higher frequencies make coverage a bigger issue than with older tech.

    There are MVNO's like Gamma that sit across all the physical networks and technologies at that point doesn't it just become a problem of specking a Push To Talk type mobile and managing the groups?

    The network security requirements even seem like a bit of a nice to have as its totally feasible to have the endpoint run robust encryption across even an analogue line leave out any kind of data network.

    PS Paris because there is no question icon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why only 4G??

      I don't get the requirement for 4g the higher frequencies make coverage a bigger issue than with older tech..

      The propagation of radio waves through the atmosphere is a complex topic, but basically the higher in frequency you go the worse it gets, but the smaller a good antenna gets too. For example, 2.4GHz is particularly bad, something to do with water absorption, which is why it's unlicensed and given over to things like WiFi, BlueTooth, DECT (in the US at least), but you can get a workable antenna into a penny sized Bluetooth dongle.

      900MHz is a very good frequency - it's a good compromise between good propagation and feasible antenna sizes (good antennas get bigger at lower frequencies, less than ideal for a mobile device), and is quite good at penetrating into buildings (less so these days when there's a lot of metal clad buildings with metal tinted double glazing). In the UK, GSM is in the 900MHz band, which is why 2G is almost everywhere.

      The Australians chose to put 3G at 900MHz, and as a result their 3G networks are way better than everyone else's (which are up at >1GHz frequencies) apart from the Japanese (who simply put a cell base station every 100 meters nationwide, so far as I can tell).

      Going lower in frequency is difficult for a broadband data signal like 4G. If you want an antenna to be able to work efficiently with a 10MHz wide signal at 2GHz, no problem. 10MHz is "narrow" so far as 2GHz is concerned. If you want 10MHz at, say, 20MHz, you're in deep trouble, that's 50% of the centre frequency, and the physics just doesn't pan out well. The antenna will be rubbish, and any gains you've had by picking that frequency are wiped out by the terrible inefficiency of the antenna. Airwave succeeds by not trying to get a broadband data signal across the air waves at the frequency it uses. For extreme examples of how large antennas get at low frequencies, take a look at Extremely Low Frequency (wikipedia), and note the use of the planet as an antenna...

      So, one asks, why not put 4G at 900MHz, get better propagation as a big part of solving that coverage problem? Ah, well, you see the 900MHz bands were given to Cellnet (O2) and Racal (Vodafone) in perpetuity for free on the condition that they run a 2G service in those bands. It's highly value spectrum, and it was a mistake to give it away for free forever (different times, less understanding then about how valuable spectrum has now become). I know there's been a lot of discussion about what to do about that, but basically no solution looks good without costing someone (i.e. the tax payer, either directly or indirectly) a ton of cash in compensation. Something may have been sorted out now, but someone was gonna lose out one way or other.

      There are MVNO's like Gamma that sit across all the physical networks and technologies at that point doesn't it just become a problem of specking a Push To Talk type mobile and managing the groups?

      So far as I'm aware there's no clean handover between mobile networks allowed for in the telephony standards. So whilst Gamma SIMs may work on any old net, changing between mobile nets involves dropping all connections, performing a new RACH, and standing up the connections again. Less than ideal whilst in the middle of an emergency call. And it doesn't solve the coverage problem; all the current 4G networks have large geographical holes in them...

      The network security requirements even seem like a bit of a nice to have as its totally feasible to have the endpoint run robust encryption across even an analogue line leave out any kind of data network.

      I don't think they'd even have to do that. It's possible (so far as I can recall) to have a private network within a cellular network like 4G. Even an ordinary company can get it's own dedicated access point within a mobile network, meaning that its company mobiles connect through its servers, not straight to the Internet. It costs money, but it's there in the standards already (meaning that it doesn't cost stupid, £billions levels of money!).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why only 4G??

        I think he knows that. His question was not why higher frequencies make coverage progogation harder - he was asking why mandate 4G and it's associated higher frequencies.

      2. Joe Harrison Silver badge

        Re: Why only 4G??

        So, one asks, why not put 4G at 900MHz, get better propagation as a big part of solving that coverage problem? Ah, well, you see the 900MHz bands were given to Cellnet (O2) and Racal (Vodafone) in perpetuity for free on the condition that they run a 2G service in those bands.

        I'm on the Three network and every so often my phone switches to their 900MHz spectrum, connection remaining in 4G for their VoLTE.

    2. Simon Rockman

      Re: Why only 4G??

      It's only 4G because the other technologies don't support Push To Talk. There is a special flavour of 2G - GSM-R which does.

      The core of the problem is the huge gap between the techies who think they know what the blue light services need and the actual requirements of plod and the Fireman Sam chasing scrotes through underground car parks and running into burning buildings.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't we put phone boxes every few street corners and give the policemen whistles? I think that's got more chance of working than 4g.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Whistles?

      I've heard Motorola are already working on a super whistle. Our post Brexit police whistles will be the envy of the world! And it will probably come in on time and in budget too.

    2. Oh Homer
      Meh

      Mobile network hell

      Ambulance driver: Yes doctor, the patient is starting to... [NO SIGNAL]

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        With 5G that'll be

        Ambulance driver: Yes doctor, the patient is starting to... [418 I'm a teapot]

        As 5G is based on HTTP.

  7. teebie

    "This a complex project which will provide the emergency services with the most advanced communications system of its kind anywhere in the world"

    "Advanced" meaning unreliable, or "Advanced" meaning inadvisable?

    1. IDoNotThinkSo

      "Advanced" meaning the civil servants don't understand it and it will cost us all a lot of money.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Advanced as in "nice sounding adjective that doesn't actually mean anything".

  8. Brush

    *cough* Clansman *cough* and that didn't bloody work either......

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      It did eventually (and occasionally)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't we just outsource it...

    ... to BT and Microsoft, maybe with Andersens or Crapita to do some special sauce on top, like we've always done?

    Oh hang on...

    "replace the Motorola-owned Airwave radio service with a £1.2bn 4G Emergency Services Network (ESN) run by EE."

    EE? That was part of BT plc wasn't it. Have they consciously uncoupled, or is the article not quite as clear as one might hope?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Poacher = Gamekeeper

    Yes, they are effectively using COTS devices (Samsung S8 Active) but making sure that they support PTT and have SIMs that prioritise them on the EE network.

    You do realise that a lot of the claims on handset availability that read as statements come from Motorola...who own Airwave and has a blatant conflict of interest.

    It's quite possible that the 'contact' is a Motorola plant, since the claim that frequency == throughput demonstrates their lack of basic competence.

    "One contact working in the emergency services said: "Airwave provides very good voice coverage due to its use of a low frequency (so poor for data) and is regarded as functionally very good. Nobody had a lot of faith that a 4G network was going to be able to provide similar voice coverage.""

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Poacher = Gamekeeper

      The statement from the contact is sound from a scientific point of view. Physics says you can't fit as much bandwidth in a low frequency signal as you can in a higher frequency one, which sets a hard limit for the throughput you can achieve.

      I don't think it's plausible that the contact is a Motorola plant either - given that they're picking out the weak point in the motorola system that the 4G network was supposed to address.

  11. wyatt

    Not surprising, the new head of the project will have completed his overview and with nothing to lose (being new..) proposed the way forward to the Home Office. I'd rather this went in working with proven technology a (good) few years late than goes in and doesn't work.

    1. AlbertH

      No Change There.....

      The head of the project will have been on his mandatory Common Purpose course, so will be the usual ineffective, brainwashed drone.

      He will have a "project board" whose principal remit is to come up with excuses for late delivery / failure to work (at all in many cases) / cost over-runs and all the other usual "teething problems" that beset any governmental technological project.

      His employment tenure will be measured in months. He will be replaced at regular intervals by more of the same useless drones......

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Motorola and the art of creating monopolies

    What goes unreported is how Motorola Solutions have managed to dupe the Home Office into creating a fantastic market position where they simply cannot fail to lose:

    Buying Airwave means they profit handsomely from any delay to the ESN programme...

    Being awarded the contract for the push-to-talk software for ESN means they effectively control how quickly (or not) the new solution is deployed...

    Motorola also control the ESN device approval process, so they are in a position of being able to set technical specifications that favour their device portfolio while providing the absolute minimum software support to other vendors...

    Any functional software changes requested by users via the Home Office that don't match Motorola's own agenda or roadmap are either blocked or charged obscene amounts of money...

    The big question is who exactly is in control of the programme right now. Is it the Home Office, or is it actually Motorola?

  13. alwallgbr

    ESN: A huge leap into mediocrity

    I could never understand why the Airwave system couldn't be re-engineered to increase its data capabilities, even if that function added 4G data to new terminals/handsets, with existing functions retained on existing frequencies

    1. wyatt

      Re: ESN: A huge leap into mediocrity

      The frequency that Airwave uses is quite low and works very well, voice (generally) gets through. More data means different handsets and infrastructure.

      I'd personally keep Airwave and use commercial 4G devices (as some forces are). This wouldn't provide a MCDATA capability, but would give the technology time to mature before then offering this via a dedicated 4G network.

      1. AlbertH
        Alert

        Airwave - pah!

        Sorry, but that's nonsense.

        Airwave invariably fails when the system is stressed. It has huge areas of no coverage or of places where the signals are just hopelessly garbled. The Fire Brigade in London worked on the assumption that reliable Airwave coverage would be around 25% of the city.

        That's why they still keep "Fireground" NBFM unencrypted radio - it works where Airwave doesn't.

        1. alwallgbr
          Thumb Up

          Re: Airwave - pah!

          I used to install and commission fireground talkthrough base station radios in underground road tunnels.

          Had no idea that they were still in use.

  14. Andy 97

    Single points of failure?

    Maybe I've worked in broadcasting engineering for too long.

    If I relied on 4G for my main comms channels there's no way I'd be completely happy unless there was also 2G (on a diverse provider network) as the redundancy channel.

    *I realise that many cellular networks "share" infrastructure (masts, cabinets etc.).

    1. Giovani Tapini

      Re: Single points of failure?

      @Andy97

      Agreed. Part of the point is that the service is resilient and virtually omnipresent. This is not the case for any "g" as many people hanging out of windows to make calls will attest (and that's before any infrastructure is disabled for whatever reason)

      Carrier independent network selection sounds technically a good option but sounds like a nightmare contractually.

      Assuming the costs are based on number of users/TCO then they don't sound that bad. People on civilian mobile contracts often pay near £1000 per device in just 2 years for high usage contracts.

      They need to stand back from fancy technical standards and keep to the big picture which is high reliability voice and data with location/carrier independence as far as possible.

      1. HxBro

        Re: Single points of failure?

        I wonder if it would be possible to provide some sort of pico cell to the emergency vehicles, that would provide localised coverage, so inside the house/building the signal is stronger whilst the vehicle is outside.

        1. wyatt

          Re: Single points of failure?

          I asked this a few months ago, Ambulances have 'gateway' radios that rebroadcast the handsets of the staff in them when they're close by boosting the signal, probably due to it having a higher powered radio and better antenna.

          I asked about the inside of buildings and large buildings do have their own internal rebroadcasting kit (Houses of Parliament/Wembley Stadium are 2 of these) however, there isn't a mobile bit of kit that can be deployed which would be ideal.

          EE/BT do have vehicle mounted sets which can be deployed to areas of low coverage/mast outages. However these still need a backhaul to the network.

          1. M7S

            Re: Single points of failure?

            Well, that depends on whose ambulance turns up.

            Like it or not, in some areas one third of the ambulances responding to front line calls are private contractors, Due to the way the NHS structures some of the contracts ("we'll only give up to [yes, that's "up to" in the same sense as your broadband supplier] ten days notice of the shifts we want crew and vehicles for") in order to obtain "best value" and keep suppliers on their toes (good for staff morale, forward logistical and financial planning etc in the best traditions of the NHS) not everyone is prepared to invest in the required mobile data terminals, airwave sets etc. Hand portables need to be keep in a secure central location at the discretion of the trust which in some instances means a 90 minute drive at the start and end of each shift (unpaid to both the contractor and their staff) to collect so in some places the crews are operating on mobile telephones (no ACCOLC or whatever the current acronym is) and TomTom.

            Where the services is prepared to guarantee a "core requirement" that a certain number of vehicles will be required for say a year, then operators are installing the MDTs, but handsets remain elusive. The fact that providers and their vehicles can be deployed from one trust to another from day to day does not help.

            Whilst I remain concerned about the technical issues for the new network, there is the chance that it may be possible to develop approved apps (with information sharing, mapping/tracking, status updates, priority calls, priority access etc) that will allow a listed mobile phone belonging to a provider to be integrated more easily and with the capability of running in different trust areas as required, which could be useful for volunteer organisations and the like as well.

            1. wyatt

              Re: Single points of failure?

              Thanks for pointing this out, my Brother in Law sometimes mans a St Johns Ambulance for WMAS, fairly certain they don't have any fixed tech that a WMAS built ambulance would have. It'd be interesting to see how % of ambulances in the UK aren't owned/operated directly by the trusts.

              Worrying times..

        2. Freedom Farmer

          Re: Single points of failure?

          That's not a bad suggestion. Hell we even have Wi-Fi on buses now. Put a 4G re-broadcasting device in all Emergency vehicles. Will give them a localised cell network at the emergency scene.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Single points of failure?

        @Giovani Tapini

        I agree too. 4G isn't currently anywhere near ubiquitous enough to be used as emergency comms. When you take into account coastal, mountainous and remote parts of the UK (highland and island etc) it's doubtful that 2 or 3G networks could cover everywhere either. A big chunk of the costs of the new system must presumably be about filling coverage holes in the existing cellular networks.

        Broadly speaking, there are two sets of cellular networks in the UK - MBNL (EE and 3) and cornerstone (O2 and Vodafone). All the companies run their own masts and backhaul, but handsets can connect to the partner company's masts if they're in a dead spot for their own network. I'm not entirely opposed to the idea that the government subsidise this private infrastructure for the purposes of guaranteeing coverage of the last few % of the UK's territory, but I do think it's questionable to only grant this cash to EE for the MBNL network. Setting up the emergency services 4G network as an MVNO that could connect to any mast that's available might be contractually more difficult, but it would likely result in better overall coverage with less need to build extra masts.

        With a bit of foresight from Ofcom (I know... VTOL bacon first) coverage requirements to support this could have been included as conditions in the 4G spectrum auctions. Maybe it's not too late to do something in the 5G auctions.

        "They need to stand back from fancy technical standards and keep to the big picture which is high reliability voice and data with location/carrier independence as far as possible."

        Had to quote this - I couldn't agree more. 4G radios nearly always seem to support fallback to 3G (possibly 2G as well), and 5G radios will almost certainly have similar backward compatibility. Fixing the network to 4G already seems silly now, but it'll look downright stupid when 5 or 6G networks are the norm for civilian comms.

  15. Pete 2 Silver badge

    A phrase you never want to hear ...

    > the most advanced communications system of its kind anywhere in the world

    where life-critical systems are discussed. It is like calling a political decision "brave".

    It sounds to me like there are certain functions that are needed - the ability to talk to each other and there are other functions that the sales-people have convinced someone would be "useful" but will in all probability never be used and/or never work properly.

    So all that will happen is that a tried and tested system, familiar and reliable, ubiquitous and with known capabilities (and limitations) will be replaced by something "advanced". A euphemism for complicated, expensive, requiring much training, support and debugging.

    Progress? I doubt it.

  16. Simon Rockman

    <sarcastic tone> This is such a surprise.</sarcastic tone>. Here's a piece from January 2015:

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/01/08/airwave_tetra_switch_off_gov_services_onmishambles/

    I don't however think it's Motorola being disingenuous here. Airwave always knew the writing was on the wall and was pretty straight up that it was going to milk the old tech for all it was worth.

    It's a combination of EE, Ofcom and DCMS all wishing that the impossible were true.

  17. Korev Silver badge
    FAIL

    Airwave has served the emergency services effectively, and has averaged 99.9 per cent availability since April 2010.

    Unless my maths is completely screwed, I make that just over 3.5 days of downtime per year. That's actually pretty poor for such an essential service...

    1. I am David Jones

      Your maths is *a bit* screwed, a factor of 10 out. 99.9% uptime is just over 0.35 days per year downtime (~9 hours).

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Pint

        Ahh Thanks for the headsup -->

  18. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    "When fully operational, ESN is expected to cost £800 per device per year,"

    Oh, that 's that then. Buggered.

  19. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Let's look abroad to find an alternative

    And a quick look at Wikipedia shows that TETRA is used pretty much round the world. Maybe there isn't an alternative to TETRA and we should just concentrate on upgrading it with the extra features we need.

  20. un

    Instead of having a one size fits all for the whole UK. Why not look at the features it actually needs. Does a met office police officer need to be able to talk to the fire brigade in Aberdeen? probably not, ever. Why not look at the individual regions, and choose a technology fit that works for those areas. Even Pre-Tetra police and fire in England used different frequencies (due to the geography) with UHF being used in Scotland. Would be interesting to see how often these "features" are actually ever used, if at all. Even the trunked digital systems in the US have more functionality than the average tetra set. Its not just the technical aspects, but its the attitude that goes with the design of these systems. There is no reason that these systems could not be meshed when needed either. Its the golden-unicorn of every officer having the same encrypted handset across the UK.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Single network isn’t a golden unicorn - particularly not when large scale responses are needed.

      Anything other than a single network has boundaries which would make joint operations hard.

      During the London riots thousands of officers were pulled in from all round the country, and they just showed up and used their own handsets. It makes a significant amount of sense.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Does a met office police officer need to be able to talk to the fire brigade in Aberdeen?"

      Absolutely. National interoperability, and cross-operations with the likes of TfL is one of the key features of Airwave. A met officer talking to a firefighter in Aberdeen might seem contrived, but it's far more likely than you'd think. It is standard practice during times of crisis for police forces to deploy into each others' areas of operation. We've unfortunately seen it time and time and time again in recent years. The same goes for our fire and ambulance services.

      More routinely, specialist officers in larger forces will frequently operate outside of their area of responsibility. For example it's common to see City of London police nowhere near the City of London, as they're the national leads for economic crime. Likewise for the Met and counter-terror ops. Or for BTP.

      It's a requirement that has been proven as necessary multiple times, and unhelpfully forgotten in this blind push for 4G.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone remember dolphin telecom and their attempt at networked radio ~14 years ago?

  22. steviebuk Silver badge

    WHAT!?!

    The NHS EE contract is pissing bad enough. Why would you go with 4G? What am I banging on about? Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton. It has virtually no mobile signal anywhere let alone 4G. And take an EE phone there, you get sod all signal so how did they get the contract? And how is using 4G going to be reliable considering the likes of Three, who I'm with, have piss poor 4G signal in most places, especially the Isle Of Wight.

  23. AndyFl

    Not really surpised

    I've been in the public safety comms industry longer than I care to remember and everyone I have spoken to predicted that this would happen.

    The existing TETRA system is expensive to run because of the way the contract was structured[1] which resulted in large profits for Airwave, now owned by Motorola. Whilst TETRA handsets and networks are not particularly cheap to buy, a fully owned network with handsets being replaced every 8 years should be costing around 300 quid/user per year now it has been running for about 15 years.

    So the government saw it was costing a lot of money and started to push an early ESN changeover to save money and also pressure Airwave into offering a lower cost to access the TETRA network. Unfortunately this failed on both points. 3GPP still haven't issued some of the LTE features required for public safety so the manufacturers haven't implemented them. Airwave know this and just waited until the government caved in and asked for a 5 year extension.

    I do not expect the large scale use of LTE/5G for public safety voice within the next 3 to 5 years. Feature rollout, network reliability, capacity guarantees and coverage will delay changeover. TETRA has its issues but it is unbeatable for voice in individual calls and group calling where a large number or users join in the call[2].

    Andy

    [1] Another glorious Public Private Partnership which ended up costing around twice what a fully owned network would have cost!

    [2] Don't confuse this with cellular PTT, frequently a TETRA group call is listened to by several hundred subscribers. Most cellular-PTT struggles with more than a dozen subscribers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not really surpised

      @AndyFl:

      I do not expect the large scale use of LTE/5G for public safety voice within the next 3 to 5 years.

      I agree completely. I would be interested in your thoughts on what UK public safety will do about data? Will individual forces make their own decisions on data-capable equipment and suppliers? Or even at a lower level (so different job roles may end up with different solutions and end up using public services such as email or snapchat to exchange data)?

      [AC as I work in the industry and could be interpreted as expressing an opinion of my employer]

  24. justAnITGuy

    "A Home Office spokeswoman said: "This a complex project which will provide the emergency services with the most advanced communications system of its kind anywhere in the world. We keep the delivery of ESN and the continued use of Airwave under constant review. We have not made any decisions about extending relevant contracts."

    There .... right there ... " ... under constant review. We have not made any decisions ..." ... is the root of pretty much all Government IT contract delay, failure and whopping great lumps of corporate incompetence. While they vacillate the various experts, consultancies, outsources get rich off the Public Purse. In no other "industry" would such scale of ineptitude be permitted to persist.

  25. batfink

    ROI?

    So, a saving of £500 per handset per year (alleged).

    How many handsets?

    How much is the airwave replacement costing?

    The rest is an exercise left to the reader...

    Hats off to Motorola for spotting the ongoing opportunity when Macquarie was unloading it and picking up a bargain BTW.

  26. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    7/7

    What concerns me is that, travelling in Central London on the morning of the 7/7 bombings (7 July 2005 - I witnessed the fire brigade trying to access the District/Circle tunnel by climbing over walls opposite St Mary's Hospital, Paddington), the emergency services effectively wiped out consumer usage of the mobile network.

    Understandable reasons, of course, but those going about their daily business - or trying to - were completely deprived of information. This, in itself, could have led to large-scale panic leading to a more severe problem. Station and bus staff were as much in the dark as we were.

    With that experience forever in my brain it is my hope that - whatever solution is implemented - the importance of giving the average man in the street sufficient bandwidth to enable them to establish rudimentary facts, if nothing else, is taken into consideration.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 7/7 (@Ken Moorhouse)

      "those going about their daily business - or trying to - were completely deprived of information. This, in itself, could have led to large-scale panic leading to a more severe problem. "

      Those who were solely reliant on unreliable mobile networks were, perhaps, deprived of information. There's a lesson there, perhaps.

      Another lesson: perhaps Olly Murs caused more panic than 7/7-style communication failures, more quickly, on 24 Nov 2017. He probably won't be the last Twit either.

      Olly Murs certainly wasn't the first Twit either, as anyone who's ever tried to make or receive an urgent (e.g. medical needs) mobile call (voice, SMS, or data) while stuck in a unexpected motorway queue, while everyone else in the queue is on their mobiles blathering on about Celebrity Love Archers or whatever.

      24x7 rolling news and the instant spread of misinformation has a lot to answer for:

      http://www.radiotimes.com/news/radio/2017-12-12/why-the-oxford-street-fiasco-shows-the-importance-of-good-journalism/

      "Station and bus staff were as much in the dark as we were."

      Communications networks fail, especially at times of crisis. That's an inconvenient fact.

      Another fact is that "to fail to plan is to plan to fail". But planning for resilience costs time+money which may not have immediately visible benefits. Maybe there's a lesson there too: "just in time" may be OK for some processes, but maybe "just in case" still has its place too (e.g. in emergency precautions).

  27. SimonHayterUK

    Free WIFI

    Does this mean I get FREE WIFI on the way to the hospital? :)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least Airwave works.

    I've been keen try this, but in my area the EE signal is poor, even since the "improvements" that mean I get GPRS rather than nothing in the canteen. The Airwave however works everywhere I go except the bowls of the local hospital.

  29. skwdenyer

    On the subject of local cells on emergency vehicles, would there be anything wrong with using satellite backhaul from vehicles? This doesn't seem a stretch.

    In fact, that seems an ideal solution to the data services problem. COTS-related WIFI/4G devices, hybrid satellite/4g vehicle-based bases, etc. Pretty much guaranteed coverage anywhere on the face of the nation.

    As regards TETRA, is there any reason it cannot simply be nationalised?

    4G standalone seems madness...

  30. JaitcH
    FAIL

    VietNam Has Airwave/Tetra - And Users Hate It

    The Internal Police, Diplomatic Guard Service and Tan Son Nhut (SaiGon) International Airport have Tetra radios - and the Internal Police prefer using cell handsets as the features are better and the well-known Tetra handset profiles, their pockets, are give-aways to the bad boys around here.

    The ground coverage of the base stations is very poor as there are insufficient for decent operational coverage. I have asked several police on diplomatic duty if they like the radios and almost everyone said they have to stand in given spots to achieve communications!

    There is one base station about 2 kilometres from where I live - and it is surrounded on all sides by closely-spaced apartment buildings.

    The national traffic police, the Canh Sat, have standardized on smartphone handsets, with push-to-talk and localised group features for small operational team applications. They have almost 100% coverage across the country as they are programmed to use any cell system within range.

    What else does Plod need?

  31. Hubert Thrunge Jr.

    How much?

    The numbers I was given for thr ESN portable device were £1100 for the "phone" and £500/yr for the SIM / Network management.

    There is currently no mobile device and the only "gateway" type device that they *need* is around $8000

    On Airwave, a portable (in volume) is around £400, the DH are charged £900/yr/terminal.

    Vehicle sets last a long time. Most are heading for 15yrs now. Portables, under contract, can be refreshed every 5yrs in the Ambulance contract.

    What Motorola should be doing now is upgrading the Airwave network to TEDS2 with its more useable data rate, and having a composite device that can use 4G where high speed data (for video etc) is required.

    I do get a feeling that there is great unhappiness in the Home Office that Motorola won it (pretty much by default), and had it been Pye or Burndept, things might be happier for them....

    1. alwallgbr

      Re: How much?

      Unfortunately Pye, and it's more recent incarnation as Philips Radio Systems, are no more.

      Also long gone is the procurement that was driven by well qualified and experienced radio engineers in the HO.

      There are many stories about Airwave usage being charged per minute to Police Forces with huge airtime bills having to be paid in the past. Police officers have told me how they were encouraged to use PTT as little as possible on their Airwave terminals to save the Force money!

      Commercialism gone too far

    2. dermotw

      Re: How much?

      Well, back in the day... Moto won the original Airwave contract because they committed to introduce AIE (Air Interface Encryption) to a timescale which Nokia, the only other contender, who in fact initially won, would not commit to. They then used AIE with fixed keys, and only changed this much later, whereas Nokia went straight to (imho) proper AIE in one step (but took longer)...

  32. Mike_JC

    Where I live the 4G coverage from EE is non-existent. Even the ordinary mobile phone signal (2G) is poor and intermittent. A few months ago I was so frustrated by it that I changed to a different supplier.

    Closing down the 4G network to us mortals will go down very badly for the Conservatives in the elections.

  33. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Just pay the bloody money

    In the grand scheme of things five hundred quid extra per handset isn't obscene, if it works.

    Remember the Lancaster power cut : http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/content-assets/documents/engineering/RAEngLivingwithoutelectricity.pdf

    'Mobile phone systems did not hold up. On most networks, the base station (the transmitter that provides the radio signal to communicate with phones in that area) is powered from the local 230V electricity supply. Some have a battery back-up that continues to provide a service for an hour or two but few, if any, cope with the 30-hour loss or supply experienced over much of Lancaster'

    Airwave key sites have a seven day power supply and a deployable mobile base station according to their website.

    4G is still a joke, I wouldn't rely on it for anything. Too many areas where it's slow or unavailable, even in major cities. Not to mention places in the countryside where there is no mobile signal, at all.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ignore the Home Office

    The force/service i do work for are just going to use 2 devices Airvave for voice/mob and ruggedised tablets with 4G for OI, I suspect that's what most of the emergency services are doing or are going to do as they can't exactly stand still while the home office dicks about.

  35. IT Hack

    Data - A slurp too far?

    So part of the spec is 'data' and increasing the availability of data.

    Talk about an open check! Clearly the idea is to allow Emergency Services more data in tactical situations. So we not only have the issue of high availability/high coverage data services but also issues around data management as well as device management.

    I'm not a sales guy but even I salivate at the idea of such a project and the, shall we say - generous billing opportunities.

    Of course Emergency Services have exemptions and the like in terms of legislation but that does not mean they are completely exempt from things like privacy rights covered by GDPR. So in the natural way of things the use of data will absolutely grow as will data breaches.

    Still its good to know that the powers that be have already considered all these and even further issues for this roll out.

    What larks.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    4G (lack of) coverage

    4G is a nice idea, but where I live I have to keep a landline phone, because the mobile network signal is so hit and miss that sometimes you're lucky if you can get 2G!

  37. Reginald Pérignon

    Boy howdy...

    "The department has said it will not expect the emergency services to use the network until they are satisfied it will support them in operations." - Wheesh! - Never in the field of horse shitting was such fatuous crap presented so 'credibly' to such piss poor effect.

  38. briesmith

    Obvious Madness

    When I first heard they were contemplating using mobile - cell - technology for emergency services comms I thought, they're mad.

    You need only listen to a phone-in programme for a few minutes to hear just how uselessly unreliable mobile telecoms is.

  39. Delta Oscar

    Been here before?

    ...Do I feel another BOWMAN coming on? You know: at least one false start, way over budget, and then years late as a result...

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