Victoria's Country Fire Authority has handed Telstra the contract to build and maintain a digital radio dispatch network for around 500 regional brigades.
The signing of the multi-million dollar Regional Radio Dispatch Service contract comes three years since expressions of interest were sought and over a year after formal negotiations with a 'preferred supplier' commenced.
The network is intended to provide regional and rural brigades with the same communications capabilities as those available to emergency services in metropolitan Melbourne.
Network construction is expected to begin in November.
"The digital network is expected to be available to all regional brigades by June 2014," CFA CEO Mick Bourke said in a blog post.
The CFA said under the current arrangement, rural crews "must relay communications via a local group communications officer to give important information about the status of an incident and location of crews."
The digital network will enable regional and rural crews to directly communicate with dispatch operators for the first time.
Though the new network will "reduce the need for group communications officers to support day-to-day dispatch communications activities in rural areas ... this role will remain essential for incident management communications and these members will continue to maintain their skills through regular training and exercises", the CFA said.
Motorola Solutions is supplying technology for the radio network architecture.