Why does New Zealand need a Public Safety Network?
Emergency services need to replace their existing analogue critical communications, many of which are obsolete, replacement parts are no longer manufactured, and existing infrastructure (towers, foundations and radio equipment) requires modernisation to meet future communication needs.
What has Cabinet approved?
In April 2020, Cabinet approved a request to go to market to procure the products and services required to deliver a Public Safety Network.
The initial request recommended a cellular based solution which has since been found to be not technically feasible or affordable to meet the resilience and coverage needed due to New Zealand’s geographic environment.
This work has now been completed through a robust, comprehensive RFP (Request for Proposal) process that engaged across the emergency communications industries both within NZ and internationally.
In August 2022 Cabinet approved an Implementation Business Case for the Public Safety Network that enables Next Generation Critical Communications to execute contracts with two preferred vendors.
What will the new Public Safety Network mean for the emergency services?
Frontline emergency services will be able to send and receive information more securely, enable better collaboration, reducing duplication and enabling them to work together more effectively on multi-agency responses. This is a significant step beyond the existing networks capabilities.
The ability of emergency services to communicate effectively and securely with their staff is fundamental to the safety of over 35,000 frontline responders and the communities through New Zealand that they serve.
Reliable, secure and capable communications are critical in today’s world where frontline emergency responders are confronted with a variety of challenging and stressful situations from single person emergency incidents to wide-impact regional events.
When does work get underway?
A programme within Next Generation Critical Communications – the Public Safety Network Programme - has been established to deliver this work.
Contracts with preferred vendors are due to be signed in August 2022. Following this, design work will commence.
The Public Safety Network Programme is aiming to start transitioning agencies to Priority Cellular services in mid-2023 and Digital Land Mobile Radio in early 2024.
What is being done to keep the existing communications network going?
Work is underway through a Radio Assurance Programme to ensure that existing radio networks remain fit for purpose and are maintained until all Agencies have transitioned to the Public Safety Network.
Transition to the new network will be done safely and on a regional basis to ensure there is minimal disruption to the public or emergency services.
Why aren’t other agencies such as Civil Defence involved?
Next Generation Critical Communications is consulting widely and keeping other agencies informed of the benefits of the Public Safety Network and how it can help both the emergency services and other agencies.
There is scope for additional agencies to come on board in the future. The solutions delivered will provide a solid communication platform for the core four agencies involved, which can be built on, evolved, and enhanced in the future in collaboration with additional agencies.