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O2 wins £390m ambulance deal

On the crest of an Airwave

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O2 has won a £390m deal to provide a new secure communications system - Airwave - for ambulance services in England. The contract is due to run for 13 years and includes the provision of kit and network access.

Airwave is a national digital radio network specifically for emergency services. It has already been rolled out to all 51 police forces in England, Scotland and Wales and is also under consideration by the Fire Service.

The new digital radio service will replace the existing analogue systems currently used by ambulance services, and is currently in service at the Hereford & Worcester Ambulance Service NHS Trust and the Mersey Regional Ambulance Service. The rest will be hooked up by the end of 2008. Ambulance services in Scotland and Wales are due to decide whether they are to sign up to Airwave "in the near future", said O2 in a statement today.

If all the UK's emergency services sign up to Airwave more than 250,000 people could end up using the network.

Said Health Minister Lord Warner: "The ambulance service has made excellent improvements in patient care over the last few years. It is essential that ambulance crews have the best equipment to back them up.

"This new digital system will provide a more reliable service and will help bring further improvements to patient care."

By early afternoon shares in O2 were up 2.75p at 139p. ®

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