4G Emergency Services Network Now £3bn Over Budget With No End in Sight

By Gary Cutlack on at

The long-winded process of switching our emergency services over to a new 4G communications system is unlikely to finish any time soon, with a government watchdog saying the EE-led network is unlikely to even hit its current switchover date of the distant future year of 2022. And December of 2022 at that.

The Emergency Services Network -- a 4G replacement for the Airwave radio system used by all of our emergency services -- was originally due to be switched on to run alongside Airwave in 2017, after EE won the contract to build it in 2015. This gave the network two years to get it up and running, which seemed easy enough, as all it does is use a prioritised chunk of bandwidth on its commercial 4G masts.

But obviously it was all harder that it sounded at the time, as the National Audit Office has given EE and the Home Office a kicking in its report into the botched switchover, which hasn't happened yet, is unlikely to happen until at least 2022, and now has a total budget that's risen up to £9.3bn -- £3.1bn more than initially planned.

Some of the hardware and software is unproven and still under development too and, bits are, er, waiting to be invented, with the NAO warning that: "...aspects of the Home Office's plans for ESN are also based on technological solutions being available, which at present require significant work to define, develop and test, and security accreditation is not yet in place."

The Home Office and hardware partner Motorola are still only in the "exploring options" phase of getting local device-to-device communications working, too, with "significant development and testing" needed on the required push-to-talk component of the whole thing. Shouting and commandeering the mobile phones of members of the public would be a better option right now. [NAO [PDF] via Sky News]