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The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has delivered another damning report on the UK Home Office's bungling attempts to procure a replacement communications network for the emergency services.
The Emergency Services Network (ESN) is meant to provide a comprehensive comms network for blue-light services running on a 4G network to replace existing Airwave radios.
PAC - Notes - Year - Reset - Scheme
The PAC notes that despite last year's "reset" of the scheme, "we are not yet convinced that it has done enough to turn the programme around. The plan for delivering ESN is still not sufficiently robust and the Department does not yet have the skills to make it work... On current evidence it seems inevitable that there will be further delays and cost increases."
The progress review laid out in painful detail the problems and pitfalls which remain.
Department - Grip - Programme - Plan - Emergency
It noted that the department has "still not got a grip on whether it can deliver the programme" and "still does not have an integrated plan for how and when each emergency service will deploy ESN", despite the original transition date being September 2017.
Work to provide ESN access to aircraft like search helicopters has not even started and coverage is not available everywhere required, including underground railways. No one has yet been awarded the contract for devices for aircraft but the Home Office hopes to do that soon. Work is still yet to begin on the network for aircraft comms – that might be available by 2020 or 2021.
Devices - Peer-to-peer - Communication - Network
Nor do any devices currently provide peer-to-peer communication where the 4G network is not available.
The PAC, chaired by MP Meg Hillier, asked the Home Office how it could be confident of hitting its new deadlines and was told it "had a 'pretty high' degree of confidence of launching the first substantive ESN prototype later this year but recognised that there was a remaining challenge to...
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