Digital Police Service Plans Air Supply Framework

The Police Digital Service (PDS) plans to establish a framework for the provision of devices and services based on the Airwave emergency communication network.

He published a prior information notice inviting potential suppliers to join in a discussion of options and indicating that the framework will be open not only to police forces, but also to ambulance and fire and rescue services.

This decision indicates that emergency services should continue to use Airwave, which has been in place since the early 2000s, for some time pending the full implementation of the Emergency Services Network (ESN) replacement.

The notice says the framework will cover terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA) handsets, software, accessories, services and maintenance, and will be worth up to £50 million.

In an accompanying statement, the PDS said it aims to have the framework in place by the end of June and that it will last four years.

Maintain critical services

He said: “The new multi-vendor framework agreement will continue to supply critical communications equipment and services to 107 police, fire and ambulance services in England, Scotland and Wales and to other law enforcement agencies until ESN, the government’s chosen option to replace Airwave, went live.

The development of the ESN by the Home Office has been plagued with problems and long delays. It was originally supposed to be in place by 2017, but the program was reset in 2018 to a series of incremental launches.

In May 2019, the National Audit Office published a critical report stating that costs had risen by at least 50% from the original estimate of £9.3 billion, and would not be offset by the savings before 2029. The Home Office said it would ultimately allow savings over Airwave.

Image from iStock, Chalabala

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