£2.9bn police radio system completed on time

Handsets all round…

Handsets all round…

The rollout of the £2.9bn Airwave police radio communications system has been completed to all forces in England, Scotland and Wales on time and on budget.

The Tetra-based Airwave network provided by mobile operator O2 is aimed at providing the emergency services with a single high-speed encrypted voice and data communications system that cannot be intercepted by criminals scanning police radio frequencies.

Airwave network coverage is now available across the UK and there are currently 100,000 users in police forces across the country.

The government is also in the middle of procuring new national radio networks for the Fire and Ambulance services and wants all the emergency forces' communications to be interoperable.

The Airwave system has not been entirely without problems having come under fire from the National Audit Office and been dogged with controversy over the health and safety of the handsets and the speed of data transfer.

But Sean Price, chief constable of Cleveland Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) project lead for Airwave said in a statement: "Airwave is light years ahead of the radios that officers have had to suffer in the past. It will enable us to be truly accessible to our communities and better able to protect them and work with them in making our streets and homes safer."

The project was managed for the Home Office by the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) and Home Office minister Caroline Flint said the system is the envy of forces worldwide.

"Crucially, Airwave will cut bureaucracy by freeing up frontline officer time - allowing officers to access data without having to come back to the station. It will help them to respond more effectively to major incidents by enabling contact with specialist units and assisting officers to communicate and work together across force boundaries," she said.