Motorola tuned out of government radio deal

By Paul Hemsley

The New South Wales Government has changed channels on the day-to-day management, monitoring, maintenance and service restoration of the state’s Government Radio Network.

The NSW Telco Authority, which oversees government radio communications assets and services, has confirmed that it will move from Motorola to Airwave in a deal that aims to improve improved communications services for fire, ambulance and roads authorities.

Airwave’s winning of GRN contract is a score for the company because it will cover approximately 26,000 state government employees in 27 different agencies including the Ambulance Service of NSW, Fire and Rescue NSW and the NSW State Emergency Service.

The government created the GRN in 1993 as a “trunked” radio system to establish a unified state-wide network, which has been instrumental in allowing two-way communications between personnel in essential services.

The first system of its kind to be launched in Australia; the NSW government has more recently sought for administrative improvements in the system’s day-to-day running.

In particular, the NSW Telco Authority has said that it wants response and restoration times improved and governance and accountability increased.

The NSW Government claims that the contract allows agencies to adapt quickly to technological improvements and changes to their network design, including the addition of new services and features.

Airwave chief executive Malcolm Keys was keen to play to the Chatswood based company’s local strengths. He said his company’s appointment would have direct economic benefits for NSW with the creation of new jobs supporting the delivery of these technical services.

“Airwave is able to deliver cost savings to the NSW taxpayer by using many existing resources – including an existing trained field workforce in NSW,” Mr Keys said.

Mr Keys said said other priorities for the operation of the network are to reduce operational and technological risks, and for the network to be operated in a more cost-efficient manner.

“Airwave has excellent existing relationships with the vendors of the network, and I am looking forward to working with them and the Telco Authority to ensure the continuing success of the GRN,” he said.

Mr Keys asserted that the GRN is a major public safety contract for the company in Australia. “Our appointment and ongoing successful delivery will impact other projects in this region”.

Giving companies the abilities to “adapt quickly to technological improvements” signals the government’s preparation for the move to digital broadcasting that agencies will be forced to take part.

The federal government’s national analogue-to-digital broadcasting spectrum change, scheduled for the end of 2013, has prompted emergency service organisations (ESO) to reassess their radio assets and management in an effort to adapt to an ever changing technological environment.

But the spectrum switch has not been without controversy. In mid-2012, many emergency services became incensed over how the federal government to auctioned off portions of digital spectrum to private telecommunications companies.

The public safety sector had petitioned for a slot of 20MHz in the 700MHz spectrum, but the federal government ultimately allocated just half of that amount in the supposedly weaker 800MHz range.

Despite their spectrum bid falling short, ESOs across the country have still been upgrading their radio communications equipment including the Country Fire Authority (CFA) in Victoria.

The NSW government also recently overhauled its telecommunications procurement strategy to simplify purchasing processes between government agencies and prospective telecommunications companies.

The contract between the NSW Telco Authority and Airwave Solutions Australia is the government’s first announcement of a telecommunications partnership since Minister of Finance Greg Pearce’s announcement of the telecommunications purchasing shake-up.

Airwave Solutions Australia is expected to take over operations of the GRN as of 1 August 2013 and the government says the transition period is already underway.

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