Fire service to get £350m Airwave emergency radio system

Final step in joining up police, fire and ambulance comms...
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

Final step in joining up police, fire and ambulance comms...

The Fire and Rescue Service has awarded a £350m contract for a new national digital emergency radio communications system to O2 Airwave.

The rollout of the new digital radio system, known as Firelink, includes both voice and data capabilities and will begin this year with completion set for 2009.

Procurement of a digital communications network for the fire service has been delayed until now because of an ongoing row about the centralisation of fire service control rooms.

The Tetra-based Airwave network is currently available to all police forces in England and is mid-way through a £390m rollout to ambulance trusts, which expect to have the service up and running by next year.

O2 Airwave was named as the FRS preferred bidder last year and has now sealed the £350m deal after final contract negotiations.

The new radio systems for the emergency services are part of government plans, formulated after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, to have one interoperable digital communications system that would allow all the emergency services to communicate securely with each other in the event of a major disaster.

Fire minister Jim Fitzpatrick said in a statement: "For the first time ever the different Fire and Rescue Services will be able to communicate with each other via the same radio network and with other emergency services via radio."

Other Airwave users include the Highways Agency and the Ministry of Defence.

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