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NSW Telco Authority signs NEC for emergency services network

NEC Australia will provide network management systems and wireless backhaul technology for emergency services under the NSW government's Critical Communications Enhancement Program.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The New South Wales Telco Authority has announced signing NEC Australia to provide network management systems and wireless backhaul technology for state emergency services and other public safety agencies as part of the government's Critical Communications Enhancement Program (CCEP).

Under the three-year deal, NEC will also provide professional services and 24/7 support via its existing technical service centres.

NEC will take part in the CCEP's pilot program across 25 sites in the north-west region of the state to facilitate connectivity through its iPASOLINK VRultra-compact microwave communications system and network management system.

Unveiled in December 2015 after consultation with emergency services and law-enforcement bodies, the state's 10-year plan for telecommunications services for its public safety agencies will involve agencies unifying their telco resources under a single integrated model, making the use of existing infrastructure more efficient, reducing duplication, improving reliability, and saving operational and maintenance costs.

This involves condensing more than 70 emergency, law-enforcement, and essential services agencies into one portfolio, with the current combined opex and capex costs associated with running 1,972 voice radio sites to also decrease. Just 732 voice radio sites are required under the plan.

The NSW government last year allocated AU$63 million to the CCEP, with the Telco Authority in April saying it would also design a new state-wide radio network. The new network design will lay the foundation for future services, including tablets, smartphones, GPS, and drones.

"Our law-enforcement and emergency services personnel depend on fast and accurate information to protect the lives and property of NSW citizens," then-NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property Dominic Perrottet said at the time.

"We are ... delivering a smarter, more reliable, more resilient critical communications network that will increase the safety of citizens and front-line personnel in NSW."

In December, the NSW Telco Authority also signed a five-year, AU$30 million deal with Motorola Solutions to upgrade 150 public safety agency radio sites and extend network coverage to 23 new sites in the north-west region of the state.

Motorola Solutions -- which in 2015 also signed a AU$175 million seven-year deal with the South Australian government to upgrade and manage its emergency services wireless network and a AU$11 million 18-month deal with Western Australia Police to update its dispatch system and integrate a new mobility application -- also deployed its WAVE application across NSW Telco Authority's radio network.

The WAVE application effectively transforms smartphones and tablets into multi-channel handsets for real-time push-to-talk voice communications anywhere there is a network connection, allowing for first responders to extend their reach to other team members.

Public service agencies -- which include police agencies, fire service organisations, ambulance services, the State Emergency Service, and marine rescue and coast guard -- have been pushing for their own spectrum for years, saying they need to be able to access high-speed video, high-quality images, geolocation tools, and biometric capabilities wherever they are working.

But while Australia's states look at providing networks for their emergency services, the federal government decided in November that it would accede to the Productivity Commission's recommendation to force emergency agencies to use commercial mobile networks.

"The government supports in principle the commission's findings and recommendations ... that commercial mobile networks are the most efficient, effective, and economical way of delivering a public safety mobile broadband capability," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Justice Minister Michael Keenan said in a joint statement at the time.

Fifield and Keenan added that using commercial mobile broadband would provide "significant potential" for emergency services to improve their efficiency and safety.

The government will form a committee made up of federal, state, and territory officials to come up with proposals during 2017.

"We are committed to working with all states and territories towards achieving an interoperable PSMB [public safety mobile broadband] capability, and will establish a committee of Commonwealth, state, and territory officials to consider fully scoped proposals and report to the Council of Australian Governments in 2017," the ministers said.

Under the commercial approach, public safety agencies will be forced to share network capacity when jurisdictions overlap, with a jurisdiction-wide implementation entity recommended to be formed in order to minimise duplication, improve economies of scale, and offer opportunities to piggyback off other PSMB government investments, such as the mobile blackspot program.

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