The United Kingdom Government is replacing the current emergency communication service managed by Airwave and used by police, fire and ambulance services, with a brand new system, the Emergency Services Network (ESN). ESN promises to be the most advanced emergency communication service in the world, but as it is not yet being used by any other nation, the risks of implementing ESN are yet to be known.

Airwave, the emergency communication service currently in use, has an average availability of 99.9% since April 2010. ESN will have to match these impressive statistics.
Besides, even though ESN will need an initial investment of £1.2 billion to set the system up, its costs will stay relatively low. It currently costs £1.300 per handheld or vehicle-mounted device per year when ESN would cost £500 per device per year. Indeed, ESN will use parts of the existing commercial 4G network, that of EE, which help reduce its cost as evaluated in the opinion of the UK Audit Office.

Moreover, ESN will also have better data capabilities compared to Airwave, and will allow emergency services to operate more effectively. There are still some technical challenges before ESN can be implemented. ESN has to work with EE to increase the 4G network coverage and resilience to match Airwave’s. Also, a handheld and vehicle-mounted device that works with ESN has yet to be developed. These challenges have to be overcome within the timeline set by the UK government. The transition of Airwave to ESN is planned to take place between 2017 and 2020. Emergency services do not have to transfer to ESN immediately, they can remain on Airwave until ESN performs at least as well as Airwave.


If you would like to read more about the UK’s National Audit Office’s opinion on the implementation of ESN, please follow this link: service-communications-the- emergency-services- network/