UK emergency crews get 4G smartmobes as monkeys attempt to emerge from Reg's butt

Samsung inks deal to give crews up to 250k handsets

All UK police forces use Tetra

The British emergency services are to be equipped with 4G phones thanks to a new handheld device contract with Samsung worth up to £210m.

The deal with the South Korean company will last for at least three years, with a potential to provide up to 250,000 phones, which is part of a continuing £1.2bn project to replace the current Airwave radio network with Emergency Service Network (ESN) devices which use normal 4G network signals instead, provided by EE.

Currently 86 per cent of the UK's landmass is covered by British mobile operator EE's 4G network. This needs to be increased to 97 per cent to match Airwave's coverage.

Samsung competed for the contract alongside specialist emergency coms company Sepura, and also Motorola, which operates the Airwave network.

Emergency services 4G by 2020? And monkeys could fly out of my butt

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The police, firefighters and paramedics won't be using your average handset however. Their custom models are toughened, water resistant and have push to talk buttons like their old radios.

They will also have internet access in the field for the first time, allowing live video broadcasting and access to records and other information.

A Home Office statement said "using a single ESN 4G device is more effective, efficient and less costly than using a combination of the existing Airwave devices and multiple commercial networks and standard 4G devices.

"The new Emergency Services Network will provide the dedicated teams who work so hard protecting the public and saving lives with the most advanced communications system of its kind anywhere in the world."

There have been problems in bringing the ESN online, however. There have been two delays to its activation already, and there is still work to be done to improve signal quality in remote areas.

In light of these issues, it is likely that Motorola's Airwave system will have to be kept running after its intended switch-off in 2020, adding to the total cost of activating the ESN. ®

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