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HM Revenue and Customs has signed up to use the emergency services' digital communications network.

It has announced a £60m, 15 year contract that will provide its Criminal Investigation and Detection teams with access to the digital radio and data network.

This will include the roll out of 4,000 connections and the establishment of a control room. It will provide the staff with the ability to share secure communications with other public safety organisations such as the police and port authorities.

HMRC's law enforcement arm is charged with investigating and detecting crimes involving tax fraud, smuggling, and related issues. Its duties involve providing the strategic, tactical, and operational intelligence needed for the detection and prosecution of people who break UK law.

The network has an encryption facility for all voice and data traffic. Airwave said this will enable HMRC officers to communicate without third parties listening in.

Stephen Walton, HMRC's project manager, commented: "Security was always going to be a major factor when it came to choosing our radio network. However, security was not the only criteria. We were also keen to have a network that could provide coverage across as wide an area as possible."

Airwave's base stations are positioned to provide coverage in 99 per cent of Great Britain's land mass, including all major and minor roads, low lying and forested rural areas and many remote coastal regions. It provides user organisations with the ability to set up "talkgroups", members of which can hear all relevant transmissions.

The network is gradually being made available to public bodies that respond to emergencies. Its full roll out began with police forces in 2005.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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