Getting the UK Ready for ESN

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 13:16

A Major Upgrade for Nationwide Public Safety

After years of development and with many delays and uncertainties along the way, the UK's new Emergency Services Network (ESN) is approaching a firm date for rollout. Early this year, public safety users began trials of various services on the new network, getting ready for the eventual nationwide rollout of ESN Service.

The Home Office has recently announced plans to extend the existing Airwave service through to the end of 2022, at which point it’s planned that ESN will take over and serve as a replacement for the legacy system.  Until then, ESN rollouts will coexist with the thousands of active Tetra devices, which operate over voice only Airwave, until a full transition can take place.  

It’s going to take time before public safety organizations, local governments, property owners, and more can deploy the solutions they need to support cutting-edge public safety applications. Launching the ESN will mean significant upgrades for connectivity in public safety, the kind of upgrades that improve response times, ensure reliable communication, and ultimately save lives.

In this post, we’ll explore the ways in which ESN changes the public safety landscape in the UK – and how Laird Connectivity’s portfolio of wireless antennas are uniquely suited for the challenging scenarios posed by ESN.

Public Safety Communications Receive the 21st Century Treatment

ESN is more than just an upgrade to existing public safety solutions. In fact, it constitutes a completely new way of addressing safety communications in the U.K. – utilizing a service which delivers both voice and data and hence enabling previously impossible applications.

The existing public safety solution in use by all 43 police services and 49 fire services across England, Scotland, and Wales is Airwave. A wholly owned Motorola subsidiary, the Airwave network was deployed in 2000 as BT Airwave and provides the network for mobile voice communications in public safety applications. The Airwave platform has grown and evolved over the years but having been surpassed by alternative mobile network operator solutions, it was announced in 2014 that Airwave would be replaced by the 4G-powered Emergency Services Network, which would allow critical data and voice applications over cellular.

This plan is known as the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) and one of its primary goals is a significant upgrade in voice and data services over the aging Airwave system. It will create a single voice and data platform that leverages existing carrier infrastructure, saving the government over £200 million per year. As stated by the Home Office, ESN will deliver:  

  • “secure and resilient mission critical communications the emergency services can trust to keep them safe”
  • “a modern voice and data platform which will enable the emergency services to improve front-line operations and work more closely together”
  • “value for money by replacing legacy technology, improving commercial terms and providing a common platform for innovation and data sharing”

Getting Prepared – Fleets and Buildings in Need of Service

With the infrastructural side of ESN utilising 4G Cellular infrastructure, various stakeholders have an increased interest in outfitting their vehicular fleets, buildings, public transit stations, and more with the kind of in-vehicle, near-vehicle, in-building and more cells of wireless signal coverage that is needed when ESN rolls out.

In-vehicle ESN solutions are a critical part of the new wave of public safety. In ESN, the vehicle serves as the hub for all public safety connectivity, allowing multiple simultaneous connections, GNSS location, and acting as a gateway for voice transponder and computer data. Multiport antenna solutions, such as Laird Connectivity’s Gar and Barracuda antennas, allow for one physical antenna to support all of these simultaneous connections. In situations where Airwave and ESN co-exist, the Barracuda family provides a family of antenna solutions to support both services. This near-vehicle area becomes the critical communications home for all of these emergency functions, and selecting the right antenna is an important foundation for a successful ESN implementation.

In addition, for ESN to roll out successfully, significant wireless infrastructure improvements are needed to bring better connectivity to more places. In-building antenna deployments will be needed to extend coverage to congested building interiors. Cellular infrastructure will need to be expanded to increase coverage density in open rural areas or in geographical weak signal zones. Public transit stops in some underground locations will require antenna installations that extend surface coverage to areas where cell signal doesn’t currently reach.

These solutions will be a patchwork of IDAS and small-cell installations, carefully chosen to increase the density of wireless coverage and dramatically expand what can be supported on the network. Laird Connectivity is the antenna authority, and we provide an expansive portfolio of antenna solutions that are ready-made for the demands of ESN. In particular, our CFSA series antennas support the frequency ranges to support both existing Tetra frequencies and the new ESN applications in an ultra low profile package for in building applications.

Laird Connectivity – THE Antenna Authority with Solutions Ready Today

Although ESN is still around the corner, Laird Connectivity is ready today with the high-performance antenna solutions that ensure a flawless ESN installation. Our previous work in public safety installations (such as FirstNet in the US) has yielded a broad portfolio of public safety-ready antennas that are engineered for performance and reliability.

Our Gar and Barracuda antennas provide multiple configurations of multi-port in-vehicle connectivity support, including LTE, Wi-Fi, and GNSS connectivity. Our broad portfolio of in-building DAS antennas are available in various form factors and frequency bands. And our low-profile phantom antennas are suited for mounting in in-building parking garages and areas with open ceilings.

Learn more about Laird Connectivity’s public safety antenna offerings.