How the Change to LTE Will Shape UK Emergency Services

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What is ESMCP and ESN?

The Emergency Services Mobile Communication Project (ESMCP) was established in 2011 as a UK Home Office led Programme to provide a new mobile communications capability to the three Emergency Services (3ES) of Great Britain. ESMCP will provide an integrated critical voice and broadband data communications service for the 3ES that meets the public safety requirements for coverage, functionality, availability and security.

The technology will be provided over a commercial 4G /LTE network with additional requirements to provide improved coverage, priority, resilience and security over other users. This new service is called the Emergency Service Network (ESN).

The ESN will replace services delivered under the current Airwave service contract(s) which are based on the ETSI TETRA standard. A number of these service contracts operate across the 3ES. The expiration of the service contracts is currently programmed to run from 2016 through to 2020.

The ITTs for ESN were issued in 2014 and are divided into 4 Lots:

LOT 1 – Delivery Partner (DP) – Status 09/15 Awarded to KBR Sept 2015
The DP will provide programme management services for ESN integration & transition and training support services. They will also plan, manage & assure, (including test assure) the implementation of ESN and be the driving force behind collaborative working between ESN suppliers.

LOT 2 – Emergency Services User Services (US) - Status 09/15 Remaining Bidder - Motorola Solutions

The US supplier will act as the technical service integrator and provide end-to-end systems integration for the ESN, network and IT infrastructure, the public safety communications functionality, user device management, customer support and service management.

LOT 3 – Mobile Services (MS) Status 09/15 Remaining Bidder - EE

The MS supplier will provide an enhanced mobile communications service with highly available services in the Primary Area in GB using its own infrastructure. It will also provide services to support the technical interface to the US supplier.

LOT 4 – Extension Services (ES) – Status 09/15 Abandoned, new PIN issued Aug 2015

Lot 4 was originally intended to procure extended coverage into areas not provided under Lot 3. In January 2015 the procurement was discontinued on the basis that there was significant incidental coverage in Lot 3. A PIN was subsequently issued in August 2015 detailing plans to host supplier events and market meetings to further develop understanding of the ESN — Extended Area Services.


Verifying LTE Performance – What to Measure and Report?

A number of KPIs will be reported during the transition period and throughout ESN's operational life. User Service measures include call set-up time, speech quality, speech delay, message delivery times, HTTP uplink/downlink data rates and latency. In addition there are a number of defined quality levels, each with its own set of KPIs to meet. 

 4G Quality of Service

4g quality of service

Testing the performance of data in a LTE/4G environment is relatively straightforward when considering data as the payload. Loopback testing is often used, whereby the user device initiates and receives the result of a test to itself or to a remote servce. Metrics for HTTP transfer speeds, latency and responsiveness can be shown. However, reporting the unique ES requirements for voice such as one-to-many call establishment, voice quality (narrowband / wideband, PESQ or POLQA) and other related QoE KPIs presents more of a challenge. In these cases what is important is the end-to-end experience for all parties, whether it be PTT device, dispatcher console or telephone / mobile phone.

As an example, a KPI for group calls might determine Call Success Ratio (CSSR) - how many calls were attempted vs how many were successfully established in the time required and where the received voice quality at every end point was acceptable.

A key requirement of ESN is to deliver improved coverage, priority, resilience and security over other users. This may result in other assessments being necessary to compare the service and performance of ESN with the existing Airwave service and the normal MNO service offered to ‘other’ users. Today most 4G/LTE packet based networks don’t support voice. Instead this is re-directed via circuit switching within the 2G or 3G core. It is unlikely that ESN voice services will be delivered over 4G/LTE until VoLTE is widely available. This is good news when considering coverage as there is more of it for GSM/3G than LTE. A potential downside is that maintaining a consistent level of service, coverage, priority and resilience across multiple technologies may be more difficult to achieve and demonstrate. This is compounded by the fact that the ‘churn’ for ESN equipment will be low and change much more slowly than the evolution of the commercial network they operate on.

LTE Options for the ESN

Given the scale, distribution and complexity of the many metrics and measures needed to show ESN working it is worth choosing your approach and partner carefully.

A typical QoE system might consist of one or more test elements each operating with as little user intervention as possible. Automation of the work flow is a key USP from data collection through analysis to reporting. In our experience following this approach increases reliability and productivity, reduces the technical and management overhead required and ensures accurate results can be delivered quickly and easily. Test elements may include:

  • Static test systems operated as part of a controlled test strategy. Static devices can be periodically moved around the network to new locations as and when required.
  • Vehicle based ‘mobile’ test systems which are operated as part of a controlled test strategy within a known environment and setup.
  • A number of vehicle (and handheld) ‘probe’ test systems which operate in a more uncontrolled or random manner e.g. precise details about the environment in which the measurement was made are not known. 

Syntech have many years of experience and have developed the necessary products and methodologies for measuring, collating, managing and reporting KPI’s in a mobile environment. Whether using a Tetra radio, an ESN device, a boundary interface or a dispatcher we can assist by: 

  • Providing a methodology and test architecture to capture and report voice and data KPIs efficiently and economically
  • Providing a range of equipment interfacing options via bespoke, customised and open standard  APIs to support ESN devices, boundary and termination points
  • Determining what, how, where and how often to collect data to meet the contract requirements, decipher the statistics and make informed assessments and decisions
  • Providing consultancy advice, drive and walk-test services and analysis and reporting of data 

    The Future for LTE in the UK

     From 2016 to 2020 the transition from Airwave to ESN will be subject to intense scrutiny to ensure it delivers on its promises. Although LTE is in its infancy the ESMCP will soon start to be implemented and options, decisions and budgets will all need to be agreed. Moving towards LTE for the Emergency Services Network in an informed, methodical and unified manner is crucial. Syntech have the experience, products and reputation to assist you in your LTE aims and goals and can advise on all technical aspects of the transition. 

    Contact us to discuss your potential requirements and the options available by email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call us on +44 (0)1483 443800.




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