Samsung Electronics has been awarded a £210m contract by the Home Office to supply smartphones and all related technology for the UK’s emergency services network (ESN).

The three year contract will see a major upgrade to the way that police, fire, ambulance and other public safety personnel are able to utilise technology in the years ahead.

Meanwhile a new ESN network will replace the current Airwave system.

New Tech

Samsung will supply 250,000 handsets for the contract, and these devices will be “fully optimised for the emergency environment” and will reportedly include a ‘push to talk’ button.

Essentially, the LTE (4G) mobile handset will feature a rugged design, and will be water resistant, after the firm said that devices had been developed “through extensive R&D to provide the most suitable solution for the challenges which currently affect communication within the emergency services.”

Samsung reportedly beat Sepura, a British specialist in emergency services communications, to win the contract.

Motorola Solutions had previously withdraw from the Home Office procurement process.

“Both hardware and software features will support emergency services functionality and critical voice services,” said the electronics giant.

“We are excited to be part of the UK ESN project and awarded the contract to supply LTE smartphones and accessories for ESN in the UK,” said Suk-Jea Hahn, executive VP of Samsung Electronics’ Global Mobile B2B Team.

“Next-generation public safety communications is an important area of focus for Samsung, and we are now looking forward to working in partnership with ESN and UK emergency services organisations to bring our technology to the entire public safety community on the front line, supporting the great work they do every day,” he added.

Airwave Replacement

The Samsung contract is part of the redevelopment of the ESN network costing £1.2bn. This will see the replacement of the current Airwave system, which is being phased out in stages from 2020.

The new ESN network will offer the emergency services 4G mobile broadband data services, which will allow for high tech capabilities for frontline emergency services personnel such as live-streaming video, paramedics accessing patient data whilst out in the field, and fire crews being able to access building plans and blueprints whilst attending a scene.

The Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) will deliver the new network and devices, and it should save taxpayers money, as the new ESN network makes use of conventional mobile network equipment, rather than the bespoke Airwave technology.

There is no news yet on how the Samsung contract and the Airwave replacement plan will affect Airwave Solutions, which was acquired by Motorola Solutions in December 2015.

Airwave is based in Berkshire, and employs over 500 staff. Its UK network uses Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) technology provided by Motorola Solutions, and its network is said to cover 99 percent of the UK’s landmass.

This currently allows more than 300,000 police, fire, ambulance and other emergency personnel in the UK to securely communicate with each other.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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  • Good news, if and only if, these devices are tools to support a well defined communications PROCESS and not an end in themselves. If this is is already broken and ineffective, then no amount of 'gee whizz; electronics will help. I know, because I've been there.

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