The Queensland government is closer to start rolling out its new Government Wireless Network, short listing three groups of vendors to build the network that is said to be worth close to half a billion dollars.
In October, the Campbell Newman-led government went to market, seeking interest for the construction of a new digital radio voice and narrowband data network for use by Queensland public safety agencies. The goal is for the network to be ready in time for the G20 Leaders Summit in 2014, and the Commonwealth Games taking place on the Gold Coast in 2018.
After receiving five submissions, the government announced yesterday that three have been chosen for the second stage of the project. Those finalists are Telstra, which is working with public safety communications vendor Motorola Solutions; Broadcast Australia, which will work with Airwave and Leighton Holdings; and the Queensland Wireless Network Consortium, which includes Harris Corporation, CSC, and Brookfield Financial.
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls said that the existing analog network is out of date. The Queensland Police Service and Department of Community Safety operate separate networks, which are not interoperable, and upgrades are required in order to meet federal changes to the 400MHz spectrum allocation that the networks operate in.
A report from the Queensland Commission of Audit (PDF) in June this year listed the network as a significant liability for the government, saying that it would cost the government at least AU$75 million by 2018 to upgrade the network to meet not only the federal requirements, but also support encrypted data for the Commonwealth Games.
The Queensland government chief information office estimates that the replacement network will cost AU$567 million over seven years, with AU$554 million set aside to build the network towers and deploy handsets.
The cost to maintain and operate the network is estimated at AU$70 million per year.
Nicholls said that the network will ultimately be used by a number of different agencies.
"It will initially be used by the Queensland Police Service and the Department of Community Safety, in particular, the Queensland Ambulance Service, and the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service. The State Emergency Service, Emergency Management Queensland, and Queensland Corrective Services are also likely to access the [network]."
The next stage of the selection process will see the three groups face off with an "interactive competitive process," where the government aims to refine the technical and commercial requirements for the network.
Although the Queensland government is focusing on narrow band for data, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has previously announced that a section of the 800MHz and the 4.9GHz spectrum band will be reserved for emergency services networks. Agencies had been after 2x 10MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz band for long-term evolution (LTE) networks, but the ACMA said that its analysis determined that 20MHz of spectrum would be "largely under-used."