NSW government mulls unified public safety comms

Roll it up into one contract and watch the telcos feed

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The government of the Australian state of New South Wales has completed a review of emergency services telecommunications, and has decided it wants a single statewide network.

The review (PDF here), conducted by the NSW Telco Authority, concludes there's no point to having individual agencies own and operate their own networks: the authority wants the services to come from the private sector.

In the language of the public service, what the authority wants is to “harness the expertise that exists across agencies and make better use of the resources of private industry in order to provide reliable, secure and innovative solutions to our frontline personnel”.

In 2013, the country's emergency services lost the long battle to secure 20 MHz of spectrum for emergency services.

However, the authority hopes that Australian carriers like Telstra and Optus can still find some unused airwaves behind the lounge for emergency services, and is “seeking industry expertise to utilise spare capacity effectively and generate a return for the NSW community”.

The recommendation is in line with the Productivity Commission's report in September that commercial providers are better placed to provide emergency services telecommunications.

With the private sector providing the spectrum and the services, the authority reckons it would be able to get video comms in the hands of emergency services.

Better communications would also mean on-the-ground data can be better integrated into agencies' IT systems.

The consolidation would also offer a tiny top-up to NSW's finances, since once systems have been consolidated, the authority hopes, the new portfolio would be able to sell off duplicated assets.

The report won't, however, create an instant feeding frenzy among carriers and other service providers: it's a ten-year plan. If adopted, the starting point will be to put emergency services telecommunications into the hands of a single portfolio.

The creation of the portfolio, and an associated IT framework, is expected to take until 2016, at which point the new body will be ready for the first stage of its contracts with the telco sector. ®

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