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April 5, 2018updated 06 Apr 2018 1:04pm

Stuck in the Field without a Signal, Leicestershire Police Switches VPN Provider

Leicestershire Police turns to NetMotion for secure network. Gov't turns to Church of England for signal boost

By CBR Staff Writer

Leicestershire Police have switched VPN service providers, dropping Citrix in favour of NetMotion, after finding that officers were losing all signal in rural areas.

The force is responsible for a population of one million across 965 square miles. The switch of provider came after the entire connections failed for field investigators in rural areas, where cellular network access can drop below 3G.

Andy White, Information Systems Analyst at Leicestershire Police, said in a release shared with Computer Business Review: “We were running Citrix over a different VPN, and it wasn’t doing what we wanted.”

He added: “We were sending out tablets that had additional aerials attached to boost the signal enough so that Citrix would stay alive. Citrix itself is quite robust, so the fact that we were having problems gives you an indicator of how bad it was getting.”

The force is now using NetMotion MPM software to run their full desktop environment over all networks: 2G, 3G, 4G, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, ADSL, Seattle-headquartered NetMotion said in a press release. Citrix did not respond to a request for comment.

The force is rolling out the solution to all 4,000 officers, with each user to be equipped with a laptop or tablet with NetMotion installed. The software uses Common Criteria EAL 4+, FIPS 140-2 AES and NSA Suite B encryption to ensure critical applications and data are protected from falling into the wrong hands, the company highlighted.

NetMotion says of its products: “Applications such as voice and video can be unusable even with slight packet loss and latency. For mobile workers this situation can be greatly exacerbated due to network connectivity issues.”

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The company adds: “NetMotion effectively mitigates these issues via forward-error correction algorithms. Missing data packets are reconstructed
instead of retransmitted so that users experience intelligible audio and video conversations during network congestion and packet loss. NetMotion can rebuild lost packets delivering “good” VoIP performance (MOS of 4, on a 1-5 scale) on networks with
packet loss as high as 50%.”

Church and State

The move comes as England and Wales’ police forces work towards harmonising technology across constabularies.

“Traditionally each force has defined what technology is to be used to achieve a specific capability. To meet the funding targets and to improve inter-force information sharing forces need to standardise on the applications used,” the Police ICT Company –  owned and funded by the country’s Police and Crime Commissioners – said in their national ICT strategic principles document, published late last year.

It remains unclear the extent to which this is being pushed through the country’s 43 police forces. (Leicestershire Police meanwhile this month also put a £1 million IT Health Check contract out to tender – the winning contractor will have to conduct “ad hoc Pen testing and IT health checks”.)

As for the poor mobile signal? Last month the UK government turned to an unlikely source of help – the Church of England – inking a three-page agreement that will see church spires used to host aerials and other equipment that can improve connectivity.

Whether that can help the country climb back up the rankings for mobile connectivity remains an open question. A report by network performance monitor OpenSignal this week found that the UK’s 4G availability (77.2 percent) lags that of Macedonia, India, Thailand and average speed (23.11Mbps) lags that of Ecuador, Albania and Armenia.

The firm’s international survey placed the UK in 39th spot internationally, four behind the mountainous Transcaucasian Republic, which can now boast an average download speed of 24.08Mbps. With an average 4G speed of 23.11Mbps, the UK has found itself two places behind Mexico.


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