ESN testing on the London Underground

Testing took place on the Jubilee Line between Westminster and Canning Town

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Emergency Services Network testing has taken place on the London Underground, as part of a Transport for London 4G pilot. The tests involved the use of live ‘Direct 2’ devices, which provide interworking between ESN and the legacy, TETRA-based, Airwave system.

According to the UK Home Office, testing involved ESMCP’s operational validation team alongside emergency services personnel. It took place on the Jubilee Line between Westminster and Canning Town, across the course of three days.

Describing the process, a spokesperson for the ESN programme said: “The scripted tests, which took place mid-July, used Direct 2 devices to measure the coverage. [The tests also] assessed the operational experience while exchanging data and voice communications between the Underground, the programme’s base in London, and Merseyside FRS.

“Part of the testing involved a coverage assessment. This saw users on the Underground carrying out voice communications across all nine stations. Users walked along platforms and ticket halls and carried out ingress and egress tests, from surface level down to platform level and reverse.”

Testers included personnel from the Ambulance Radio Programme, London Fire Brigade, the Metropolitan Police Service, British Transport Police, Operational Communications in Policing and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service. The Direct 2 devices were on loan from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.

NHS Ambulance Radio Programme senior user, Chris Lucas, said: “One of the pleasing things we saw [during testing] was the proof of the network interworking solution that connects Airwave and ESN together, which is really critical for part of the transition piece. I think both myself and my colleague from the ambulance service were really impressed with how it works. The quality of the voice that came through exceeded our expectations.”

ESN fire senior user, the National Fire Chiefs Council’s Ian Taylor, said: “I’ve been able to witness the fact you can make calls and send messages and pictures on the Underground into a building built of concrete, so it shows the capability and coverage ESN produces."

According to the programme, the stretch of Underground between Westminster and Canning Town is the first to receive 4G signal, as part of the aforementioned pilot scheme. The signal covers all tunnels, as well as platforms and station areas, other than those at London Bridge and Waterloo. The coverage is also freely accessible to the public and not exclusive to ESN.

TfL recently awarded a 20-year concession to BAI Communications which will expand the pilot to enable mobile coverage across the whole Tube network, by the end of 2024. Further ESN testing will take place on the London Underground in the coming months.

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Critical Communications Today is dedicated to the global critical communications market. It aims to inspire and inform the critical communications community and is published with the support of TCCA. Initially launched in 2010 as TETRA Today, this publication provides technical advice, authoritative editorial and commentary spanning all areas of mission-critical comms.
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