Getting the Best Value & Delivery from the Airwave Network, British APCO 2012

The Airwave network has been in existence for twelve years now. During that time first line communications have changed dramatically. Providers, users and contractors have all helped to shape and adapt the system. Has this happened in the right way and looking forward how will the process evolve over the next five to ten years?

To answer these questions Syntech and Supertintendent Sue Lampard of Surrey Police organised a business session at the 2012 British APCO event. Panel representatives from NPIA, Police, Fire, Ambulance and Airwave present. At the end of a tough year of budget cuts is the Airwave Network still delivering?

After twelve years of existence, what improvements/changes does the panel think are needed?
Keeping costs down is high on everyone's agenda, particularly in the aftermath of cuts. However, some of these issues can be addressed by looking at user behaviour. Historically finance departments knew what they were being charged but not necessarily why. Airwave Max enables costs incurred to more transparent and readily accessible, making additional traffic charges easier to pinpoint. Users can drive costs down to a certain extent by turning off additional talkgroups and not overstepping talkgroup borders unnesessarily. Currently usage over the TU threshold costs £21m per annum for Airwave users.

Airwave suggests this can be driven down in part by training users to be fully aware of the impact of additional charges. However, capacity must remain flexible and able to deliver in the event of a crisis.

How does the panel propose to achieve these improvements/changes and what options/processes are available?
This is a two part question taking into account 1. now and 2. the future;
In the short term a good working relationship between Airwave and end users is key. Functionality is better than in the past and billing costs are more transparent then previously. Training needs to be part of an ongoing process and reqiurements should be limited to what is necessary rather than idealist aims.
Looking forward to 2019 and the introduction of LTE there is a lot to do. The NPIA Interoperabilty Continuum has completed a study on key factors that will help to shape the future of TETRA. More information about the NPIA's research can be found here: http://www.npia.police.uk/en/13512.htm

Who will represent my (Airwave customers) interests now and in the future, and how do I get involved?
Getting an accurate view of user requirements is key. Working with the Local Authorities is also an effective way for Airwave and end users to shape the future of their communications network.
The feedback from this session has suggested that whilst the current system is technically strong, end users may need to change some behavioural aspects to the best from the Airwave network. Training is an important issue; increased end-user knowledge will lead to more efficient usage of the network. Training does, however, require extra resources and ultimately, more funding. Airwave realise that it is crucial to help drive costs down across the emergency sector in order to achieve a successful ongoing programme of training. Working together both on the ground and at a higher level is key to shaping the future of emergency communications. If costs savings can be made as efficient as technical and functional processes end-users and the community at large will reap future benefits.

 

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