UPDATED 16:28 BST: Fresh concerns have been raised about the potential pitfalls caused by the launch of a new emergency services network (ESN) in the UK, co-managed by operator EE, following a bout of terror attacks in the country.
Meg Hillier, the former head of parliament’s spending watchdog, wrote to home secretary Amber Rudd asking for an update on the progress of the network, which will provide communications services for the country’s police, fire and ambulance services, Financial Times (FT) reported.
In the article, FT said there were now concerns about moving to a new network at a time when the UK is on high alert following recent terror attacks, and critics are concerned of the risks involved with transferring emergency services to a mobile network which only covers 80 per cent of the country’s land mass.
Hillier also reportedly expressed concerns about a potential delay to the network, which is due to roll out in 2020, which could mean there is a potential gap of nine months between the current Airwave system being cut off and the new ESN network launching.
The Home Office is reportedly in discussions with Vodafone, which provides connectivity for the existing Airwave solution, about extending the service until the new network is ready for use.
However, the status of these negotiations have been up in the air.
In a statement to Mobile World Live, EE rubbished suggestions the network would launch with only 80 per cent coverage.
“The ESN program is designed to significantly enhance the communications available to the emergency services, and users will only transition to the new network when coverage is complete, matching the current Airwave offering,” an EE company representative said.
EE did not provide a response to any of the other concerns noted in the FT article in its statement.
The BT owned operator won a government tender to provide connectivity for the UK’s emergency services network in 2015, but the project came under fire over the past year, with reports of delays to launch and the threat of technology failures.
In February, EE hit back at criticsm from Vodafone over its handling of the project, telling Mobile World Live it developed a timeframe and deployment plan which will ensure the ESN does not waste taxpayers money on an “unwanted multi-occupancy site design.”
In its report, FT noted Germany, the US and other countries had decided against moving emergency communications to commercial networks, amid concerns the technology was not yet up to scratch.