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Met procures 30,000 Airwave radios but concerns remain about ESN

The Met has bought 30,000 new Airwave handsets but says it will get at least five years of use out of them due to delays to the replacement network.

The Met has said that the direct cost to the force as a result of the ongoing delays with the roll out of the new Emergency Service Network (ESN) is “very small”.

The force has recently refreshed its radios buying 30,000 new Airwave handsets which will be required for at least five more years as the old TETRA network will not now be switched off until 2028.

Speaking to the Budget and Performance Committee, the Met’s Director of Technology Darren Scates said: “We bought that because our existing radio fleet was coming to the end of its useful life.We had to buy a refresh anyway.

“Somewhat ironically given now the extended time we are going to wait for ESN we are going to get the full benefit of them – the life of radios is normally around five years. Frankly it looks like we will get at least five years.  

“The wider question around the cost to policing – or to all of our [emergency] services – is actually the programme itself is obviously using central resources that are then not available to distribute to policing and other services.

 “That’s the macro challenge – that we have with some of the central programmes where they do become delayed.

“The direct cost to the Met is very small. We have a very small team who we maintain because we still need to look at things like testing coverage for the new ESN networks.”

Airwave is owned by Motorola who also have a major contract with the Home Office for the ESN. The commercial arrangements for both networks are currently subject to a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) review. The review will conclude in September.

The Met’s Chief Digital and Technology Officer, John Clarke said the result of that review could be a cost benefit for policing, “That possibly might result in a change in the funding model for Airwave and we might therefore get some slight change or reduction in the cost of Airwave rather than ESN," he said.

“We’re waiting on the outcome of the CMA review.”

Since the launch of its "digital strategy", the Met has rolled out 28,000 BWV cameras and subsequently refreshed them, as well as 20,000 laptops and 15,000 tablets. It has also put in a system allowing for every bus garage in London to provide CCTV evidence electronically as opposed to having to resort to DVDs or USB sticks.   

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