The UK’s proposed 4G-powered Emergency Services Network (ESN) faced further scrutiny, as a government watchdog revealed the project is currently 50 per cent over budget and will not be ready until 2023.

Designed to overhaul the country’s current communications network for critical services including police and fire, the ESN has been riddled with issues over the past few years.

Operator EE is co-managing the network, winning a tender from the UK’s Home Office in 2015, along with Motorola and consultancy KBR.

Financial Times cited a report from the National Audit Office (NAO),  stating the network will not be ready until 2023 at the earliest, pushing back a launch which had already been delayed to the end of 2022.

It was originally meant to be in place in 2020, replacing the existing Airwave radio system.

NAO added the Home Office is forecasting the cost of the ESN has increased by £3.1 billion, now costing £9.3 billion in total. Some £1.4 billion of this figure relates to extending the current Airwave system.

Amyas Morse, head of NAO, said the Home Office “needs a comprehensive plan with a realistic timetable that properly considers risks and uncertainties”.

NAO added in its report that parts of the network were not ready yet, with the Home Office yet come up with a plan on how to integrate different technology elements.

All 107 police, fire and ambulance services in the UK, Scotland and Wales, have also said they are not convinced ESN is at a position to replace Airwave.

FT added the Home Office is renegotiating contracts with operator EE and Motorola in light of the delays.

In May 2018, reports suggested the UK could abandon work on ESN altogether.