Paging problems hit emergency network

NSW rural emergency services volunteers' paging network has been troubled over the past several months, according to concerns NSW Minister for Emergency Services Bob Debus raised recently in Parliament.

The minister, mentioning concerns about the present state of the network, said many SES units in rural areas were experiencing delays of up to 15 minutes in receiving pager messages.

"In the Gosford area the Rural Fire Service is reporting delays of up to an hour to receive messages, some of those messages are scrambled and pagers are not being supplied. Queues of up to 20 minutes to speak to a Link operator have [also] been experienced," Debus said.

The network was outsourced in mid 2000 to Link Telecommunications.

Gosford State Emergency Services (SES) unit deputy controller Morris Fitzgerald said the coverage has not compared well with the previously used "hassle free" Telstra-operated paging network.

Link Telecommunications sales and marketing general manager John Betts admitted "one or two issues still need to be worked through".

"We think the network is going well. A paging network cannot be guaranteed 100 per cent of the time," he said.

Betts said the company had been working with the SES to resolve network issues until late November, and had "not heard from any SESs since November".

"Complaints from these organisations have not been logged with us," he said.

However, Fitzgerald told Computerworld his unit had been in regular contact with Link logging problems with its Crows Nest centre.

"The last time we contacted Link was about three weeks ago due to a lack of service in the West Gosford, Springfield and Wyoming areas."

When questioned about the problems at Gosford, Betts said the company was "committed to more work at Gosford as we are moving them to a stronger frequency".

He refused to believe that any SES unit was experiencing delays on the network as long as an hour.

"Delays on the F2 network have been addressed and monitored. We had some delays on the network when we brought some Telstra customers over, however we have since removed a lot of the traffic," he said.

Betts said when Link took over the network from Telstra it had the same number of sites, but the footprint was different and that had created some problems.

"The town was covered, but one site may have favoured one side of the town, so we took a commitment to balancing this out. In some circumstances we even took over Telstra's site and equipment," he said.

"With some sites, we haven't been able to cover them, but these are fringe areas. We have put in new transmitters or tweaked the network so the majority of places have coverage."

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