Fire and Rescue services set to become the third major emergency service on the Airwave network
Firelink, the procuring body for the national communications contract, today confirmed that O2 Airwave, subject to satisfactory completion of final contract details, has been successful in its bid to equip all Fire and Rescue services throughout England with a new resilient and secure voice and data communications service. The company will work with the Firelink ODPM team to conclude final contract matters in the near future.
The announcement comes prior to contract award, which is expected before the end of the year. A framework is being created for the scheme that provides the devolved administrations with an option to extend the service to Scotland and Wales.
Jeff Parris, Vice President for O2 Airwave said, “Today’s announcement gives us an opportunity to prove that we can provide the nation’s Fire Services with the very best in communications. We look forward to working closely with the Firelink team over the next few weeks.”
The Fire Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick said, “We are investing heavily in the fire and rescue service to ensure that it is able to meet the challenges of the modern world. Today’s announcement is a major milestone in achieving this.”
“Firelink will transform the current arrangements and give the service, for the very first time, the same digital radio system across the country – a system that will enable firefighters to communicate not only between fire and rescue services but also with emergency services, regardless of location.”
Today’s announcement comes in a year of successes for O2 Airwave. The Airwave network build was completed in the spring and the Ambulance contract award followed in the summer. More recently the company signed a contract to deliver a National Fallback Service (NFS), which will provide enhanced levels of resilience to the already robust Airwave network.
As part of HMG Critical National Infrastructure, the Airwave service is designed to stay working even during major incidents (like 9/11) when conventional mobile and fixed telephony networks may overload and fail. The Airwave service performed well during events such as T200 and G8 and proved itself as the main communications platform during the London bombings on 7/7.
The Airwave service is already in use by 182 Public Safety Organisations including all police forces throughout the UK and has been taken up by all English Ambulance Trusts. The Fire and Rescue Services would become the third major emergency service on the network. Airwave is already one of the largest public safety networks in the world and provides extensive coverage with encrypted digital communications.
With other Airwave users including the Highways Agency, MOD and Immigration Service, the potential number of UK users is now well in excess of a quarter of a million.
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