Tasmania breaks gridlock on unified emergency comms network

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Tasmania breaks gridlock on unified emergency comms network

But frequency remains unknown.

Tasmania’s long-awaited whole-of-government emergency services network overhaul will finally go to market next year to replace the kaleidoscope of separate networks used across the state.

The Tasmanian government radio network program (TasGRN) has been on the cards since 2005 as a means to unite the four separate emergency services networks operated by Tasmanian police, SES, ambulance, and firefighters.

But after two attempts to standardise the networks, the state’s emergency services agencies continue to rely on separate networks to communicate.

Tasmanian Police, electrical entities, and – to a lesser extent – the SES use the trunk mobile radio network (TMRN), which was built by Ericsson in 1998 and operates on the 800 MHz band, while the Tasmania Fire Service and Ambulance Tasmania use a series of 70 MHz analogue networks.

A 2014 audit report revealed that disagreement over the proposed 400 MHz frequency of the whole-of-government network had led to a stalemate over its direction.

The audit office advised that emergency services agencies focus on improving interoperability while awaiting the outcome of the whole-of-government network decision.

In the interim, the government invested in an interoperability gateway developed by Ericsson and Harris Corporation to link the TMRN with Ambulance Tasmania and the Tasmania Fire Service using existing radio terminals.

A follow-up review [pdf] a year later found this interim solution had effectively “closed the loop by bringing all of the agency services and fire partners into full interoperability”.

It also found that emergency service agencies had reached agreement over the TasGRN technical solution - specifically that it would operate on different frequencies.

Now the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management (DPFEM) has revealed that it is developing another business case for the network based around this approach, with a tender anticipated for June 2018.

The system will initially be used by police, SES, ambulance and firefighters as well as Forestry Tasmania, the Environment department, and the Tasmanian Electricity Supply Industry.

However, deputy commissioner of police Scott Tilyard told iTnews that DPFEM had not yet decided exactly how the network would be structured.

“The current phase of the TasGRN project is focused on the development of a comprehensive business case based on a detailed needs analysis,” he said.

“Definition of the required service areas for the new network including coverage and capacity considerations has also begun.

“Identification of the most suitable frequency(s) required to deliver the required network services will then be included in the technical design phase of the project.”

But at budget estimates last month, Tilyard indicated that shifting to one frequency range was “not likely to be feasible”, and the department “may take a dual-band or multi-band frequency approach” with 400 MHz and 160 MHz.

The department is currently conducting a market-sounding exercise that it expects to complete in August.

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