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December 10, 2015updated 23 Aug 2016 11:54am

Home Office connects emergency services with EE 4G

News: Contract will see EE investing in expanding its network to carry traffic.

By Alexander Sword

EE will deliver voice and data services for Britain’s emergency services after the operator was selected by the Home Office.

300,000 workers in the police, fire and rescue and ambulance services will now be able to use the operator’s 4G network for their communications.

The contract was awarded as part of the Government’s Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP), a £1 billion project to boost Britain’s emergency services communications.

In light of the contract, EE will expand its network to carry the traffic, building over 500 new sites to expand coverage in rural areas and switching on 800 MHz spectrum at 3,800 sites to improve coverage. EE had already committed to spend £1.5 billion on its network up to 2017 but will increase this investment.

EE will also make use of the emerging Voice over LTE technology so that personnel can make calls over 4G, enabling new capabilities such as "push to talk".

The new 4G-powered network will replace the existing terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA) system from mid-2017, when contracts are due to expire.

The process has attracted some controversy; existing TETRA supplier Airwave last month filed a legal challenge to the Home Office after EE was first chosen as preferred supplier to provide mobile communications to UK emergency services through its 4G network.

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Airwave’s complaint cited procurement concerns and the inability of the cellular network to handle the traffic.

"The move reflects the strong position of EE‘s 4G network which is available to over 90% of the UK population," said Kester Mann, Principal Analyst at CCS Insight. "Mobile networks need to be hugely reliable to support the strong demands form emergency services.

"This is an important win for EE as it continues to make significant progress in the business market, putting pressure on Vodafone and O2 which have traditionally dominated this sector in the UK."

Mann said: "Clearly this is also an important award for BT, which is in the process of buying the market-leading UK operator."


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