Spending Review and Autumn Statement: Government hopes 4G ESN will save money and will establish alternative network fund, but other broadband news lacking
The government claims the new £1 billion 4G emergency services network (ESN) will save £1 million a day, while providing police the ability to perform new more types of task and work away from the office.
“The Spending Review invests nearly £1 billion in the next generation of 4G communications network for the Emergency Services which will enable officers to access key police databases, take mobile fingerprints and electronic witness statements and stream live body worn video – all whilst on the move,” said the 2015 Spending Review and Autumn Statement, which was unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne in Parliament today.
Emergency Services Network
“This critical national infrastructure will free up officers’ time, save the taxpayer around £1 million a day when fully operational and connect all emergency services on the same broadband network for the first time.
It has been reported that EE has won the contract for the ESN, after O2 withdrew from the bidding process. It is due to be established by 2017, at which point the current radio system known as Airwave will be gradually abandoned before being retired in 2020.
Last month EE showed off a number of connected products for businesses and the public sector, including EE Connected Vehicle, which turns cars into a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The product will be used by Staffordshire Police so officers can spend more time on the streets than at a desk, and the ability to create multiple private networks means police cars can share connections with other services, such as the fire brigade, during an emergency.
An additional £550 million will also be made available to free up the 700MHz band for mobile broadband. Ofcom has already allocated the band for mobile – provided it can co-exist with Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services – while the UN-affiliated International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recently voted to harmonise 700MHz on a global scale.
There was, however, little information about government plans for broadband – including the promise of 100Mbps ultrafast first detailed in March. The chancellor committed to completing existing plans to deploy superfast broadband to 95 percent of the UK population by 2017, although there was no new information about how pledges to provide 10Mbps to anyone who wants it by 2020 would be fulfilled.
However the government did say it would “explore” setting up a new broadband investment fund to support the growth of “alternative network developers”. This fund will be supported by both the public and private sectors and managed by the latter on a commercial basis. No other details were disclosed.
It also appears as though there are no immediate plans to offer more government funding for the super connected cities voucher scheme, which offered grants of up to £3,000 for SMBs to get superfast broadband. The initiative was suspended after the money run out, with 55,000 businesses filing successful applications. A number of firms, including Virgin Media and KC, have called for the voucher project to be restarted.
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