shun £2.9bn network for mobile data
set to go their own way on 'vital' part of Tetra contract
Police forces across the country are turning their backs on the
controversial £2.9bn Tetra mobile communications system, because
it cannot process data at acceptable rates.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is now demanding that
forces have a choice over how they transmit data.
"We want bearer independence," said Paul Friday, head of
information systems at West Yorkshire Police. "This can be seen
as a political war cry."
The Home Office wants to reduce the admin burden on police officers
and get more of them back on the beat.
Officers can be made more productive by running Police National
Computer (PNC) checks quickly themselves while on patrol. A PNC check
will flag up stolen vehicles, or alert officers that they are dealing
with a potentially dangerous suspect.
The Terrestrial Trunk Radio system, better known as Tetra, was chosen
by the government to deliver a secure radio facility to the emergency
But while the O2-run Airwave Tetra system is meant eventually to
carry significant volumes of data traffic as well as voice calls, it
can currently only offer data transfer rates of just 3Kbps.
Friday helped ACPO draw up its policy towards mobile data
transmission, and insisted that forces be allowed to develop services
with whichever carrier suits them best.
Some forces are already making their moves. Staffordshire Police will
complete its trial using PDAs to give 60 officers access to the PNC
and file crime reports while on patrol.
Staffordshire is using Orange's GPRS network rather than Airwave
because it could not wait for the system to develop, according to Ian
De Soyza, project manager at the force.
"The Airwave project is going to concentrate on national
projects at first. Only Staffordshire and Durham Constabulary use our
crime reporting system. Airwave won't support this for quite a few
years," he said.
Compared to Airwave's current data speed of 3Kbps, Staffordshire
Police gets connection speeds of between 20Kbps and 26Kbps with its
West Yorkshire Police is also piloting a mobile scheme, accessing the
PNC over the Transcomm Airtime network. Meanwhile North Wales Police
has been using Vodafone's GPRS network to transmit data services such
O2 Airwave admitted that police forces will make a choice over how to
transmit data, and acknowledged that access to PNC checks was a
"vital" part of its contract with government.
"We will be testing access to the PNC over the next few months
and are confident that we can meet the requirements of the emergency
services," said an O2 Airwave spokeswoman.
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