NSW emergency comms face upgrade

NSW is upgrading its emergency communications network to accommodate rising demand and protect the system from terrorist attacks and natural disasters. The state government is shortly to close a request for quotation (RFQ) for managed digital services to upgrade its existing trunked radio network system and communications links between various emergency response agencies.

NSW is upgrading its emergency communications network to accommodate rising demand and protect the system from terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

The state government is shortly to close a request for quotation (RFQ) for managed digital services to upgrade its existing trunked radio network system and communications links between various emergency response agencies.

The wide-ranging government radio network (GRN) -- shared by a number of NSW agencies -- is to be converted from a largely analogue operation. The GRN conversion is expected to play a key role in a planned upgrade of the internal and external state ambulance, fire brigade and police communications links.

According to the RFQ, the emergency services links "require improvement as they are already inadequate to meet the increasing service demands being placed on them as well as being deficient in security and resilience in the event of a terrorist [attack] or natural [disaster]".

ZDNet Australia  understands the changes are being driven by high-level agreements between the NSW and the federal government on critical infrastructure protection.

The RFQ documentation also reveals disaster recovery sites are to be built for both the radio network and the state police force.

The 11-year-old GRN provides voice radio to 50 government agencies with more than 17,000 active units. An additional 9,200 mainly rural-based units are programmed to use the GRN, but usually fulfil private agency functions. The system covers an area equal to one-third of the state.

Motorola supplies all of the end-user radio equipment, which uses a proprietary communications protocol.

While the radio communications links are presently coordinated by the state's Network Operations Control Centre (NOCC), there is no backup facility.

The state government plans to construct a secondary centre and additional links between it and all remote base stations.

The NSW police force is also also upgrading its operations centre in Penrith as a backup to the Sydney Police Centre in Sydney's central business district", the RFQ documents said.

In the long-term, the state is examining shifting the GRN to radio over Internet Protocol technologies. "Current planning for the GRN envisages that it may be migrated to an encrypted, digital IP radio network in about six years time," the tender documents said. "Potential solutions are likely to be based on either the TETRA or APCO25 standards, or be carried on carrier services if those technologies are sufficiently developed to support emergency service operations."

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