16 Aug 2007

Concerns Over Airwave Effectiveness

Poor coverage and unexpected user problems could still hamper the police response to terrorist incidents in London... As the Metropolitan Police continue with their roll out of the 'Airwave' digital secure radio system, numerous deficiencies in the £2.9 billion product have been identified, problems that are also likely to affect forces across England and Wales.
Many people in differing walks of life will have concerns and, a thing or two to say if their equipment or tools let them down at work. That is only natural however, when that ‘tool’ can be the difference between life and death, it’s a lot more serious. Radio is an important tool for police officers and they should be able to expect it to work properly but unfortunately this is not always the case. So what are the problems?
A proportion are perceived as opposed to actual, many of us do not have the technical knowledge to support our beliefs. In this high tech age we have come to expect communications perfection. We are used to multi synchronised feeds from 4 corners of the globe entering our living rooms during the evening news. At the same time we enjoy and expect effortless and crystal clear conversations with our friend in Australia via a mobile phone no larger than a bar of soap. Much of this ability has been developed due to massive financial investment and the power of market forces.
Unfortunately, continued financial investment and support for the technology is not forthcoming in many areas of the Country, a fact driven by enforced budget cuts in many police forces. Add the fact that Airwave (owned by O2 until recently but now sold off to an Australian Banking consortium) is a commercial organisation. They are also a business, which enjoys a near monopoly status at present, so now you start to see the normal drivers for technology development do not exist. This is not meant to be an excuse for poor performance but it does give some background to the bigger issues.
That said, the safety of our police officers and the public should never be compromised or left wanting simply because of financial considerations! Yes there have been issues with the system since inception, some serious some not so problematical but now, with the largest force in the land (Metropolitan) adding their weight to concerns, perhaps the market forces element might kick into the equation?
Police Officers across the land owe it to their colleagues (and themselves) to supply factual evidence of Airwave issues to their respective Federation Branch Boards and Force Technical Departments. This is the only way to apply pressure during contractual negotiations with the supplier and get things put right!
Control to Dalta Alpha 21... Delta Alpha 21 are you receiving? Fetch a pie back from the butchers in Aidensfield for Sgt. Blaketon!

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