New South Wales' emergency services communication network is up for contract renewal with plans for an expansion to the network and a possible move to wireless IP (Internet protocol) technology.
The government-owned radio network (GRN) is a wide-area, trunked radio network, which Telstra has been managing; however, the contract with the national carrier has expired.
Warwick Ponder, media adviser for the NSW Minister for Information Technology and Management, Kim Yeadon, said the department was "seriously" looking at six submissions received in its recent call for expressions of interest (EOI) for the management of the service.
Ponder would not comment on who had submitted EOIs.
He said the current contract with Telstra had been renegotiated, and that the government hopes to roll out the new system by March next year, when the contract extension expires.
Some 34 agencies totalling about 12,000 users use the network now, including many of the state's emergency services -- the ambulance service, fire brigade, NSW State Emergency Service and the Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW.
The GRN is basically a proprietary Motorola SmartZone service with about 88 sites and a network that covers an area about one third of NSW. It is primarily analog, however three digital sites operate within Sydney's metropolitan area.
The EOI detailed the government's "wishes to consider a range of technologies available for the provision of radio network service and equipment, in particular, support for wireless IP (Internet Protocol) based applications".
Ponder said the government would consider all "new technologies", but "we have to be careful to watch the distances they will work over".
The government's plans to move the system from the analog environment appears to stem, in part, from security concerns. The present system is "limited [in its] ability to offer high levels of security" due to no analog encryption, and in its use for data transfer.
This has restricted the extent to which some NSW government agencies use the GRN in supporting their voice and data applications.
"The government wants to expand the network to improve the service," Ponder said.
The EOI lists the Ambulance Service of NSW and NSW Police Service as likely users of the new "multi-agency digitised voice and mobile data capabilities", which are being sought for the service.
Ponder said the government would be working with several agencies to ensure the new service met their requirements, including a preference for an integrated voice and data service solution.
John Shenstone, manager of communications for NSW Fire Brigade, said he was unable to comment on what capabilities the brigades would like included in the service, as they would be assisting the Office of Information Technology (which is responsible for administering the contract) in the tender preparation and evaluation process.
The NSW Ambulance Service, which recently told The Sydney Morning Herald that the GNR "would not meet the service's future needs", refused to comment.
The GRN came into operation in mid-1994. Significant factors leading to the decision to build the network included the ability to interoperate agency radio systems in times of emergency, and to be able provide interagency communications coordination for major events.