ESN – the Emergency Services Network – is a hot topic in the critical communications industry and will replace the current Airwave service used by UK emergency services. We look at how moving to airwave DCS can be a stepping stone on the ESN journey.
While ESN is the headline project, there’s another fast-approaching priority for radio communications affecting the UK emergency services – that is, Motorola’s retirement of Centracom and VORTEX dispatch system technologies in 2022.
Beyond this date, any organisation using these technologies at the same time as Airwave TETRA connectivity will need to consider migrating to an alternative solution if they are to continue operating critical communications functionality. The recommendation from Motorola is to move to a new system called ‘Dispatch Communication Server’ (DCS).
In short, DCS enables the interoperability of IP technology with TETRA, thereby replacing legacy integrators including Tetra Proxies & CCI Ports. The benefits of migrating to DCS are valuable to the control room – we’ve listed some of the most important below.
When Centracom retires in 2022, the Windows 7 PC operating system required to run this technology will have reached end of life much earlier in 2020 – and Microsoft will no longer provide security updates as standard.
End-of-life PC equipment within a critical control room introduces a security risk, which, in the event of a security breach, has the potential to impact operations. In most cases, having these machines still active will also contravene an organisations’ IT strategy impacting Home Office IHTC inspection reports regarding the operating systems allowed in a control room.
Microsoft isn’t planning to support any operating systems predating Windows 7, which is why it’s important to consider upgrading for 2020. While it is a possibility to extend Windows 7 support to 2023, a better option is to invest in DCS, which will overcome these challenges and take advantage of additional value at the same time.
A significant benefit in choosing to upgrade to DCS now is that it is architecturally very similar to ESN, which makes migrating to DCS a steppingstone on that journey. As the ESN timetables and functionality are still being refined, there aren’t many steps an organisation can take in preparation for the ESN compatible software releases.
Upgrading to DCS is a very meaningful upgrade that can be carried out today and will prepare your control room for ESN. The upgrade removes physical components from the current solution, resulting in a more simplified architecture. The subsequent upgrade to become ‘Ready for ESN’ will be less complex and reduced in risk, since some of the required technologies will be already installed, tested and bedded into the control room environment.
What’s more, with DCS, the security considerations associated with Windows 7 are no longer a concern as it supports Windows 10. As a result, it’s possible to entirely move to the Windows 10 suite, negating any risks associated with the Windows 7 operating system.
In addition to better security, DCS also removes analogue and digital interfaces in favour of IP to create better audio quality through removing conversions from analogue/digital to IP and vice versa. Line drivers used to connect cables are also removed in favour of IP ports.
All these points can impact voice quality, for example through damaged cables and IP conversions. When these are removed in place of end-to-end IP, there’s potential to deliver improved audio.
More specifically, CCI proxies are not required with DCS and can be decommissioned, further reducing architecture complexity. As a result, any workstation can connect directly to any port without the need for ‘host’ machines.
Overall, this can reduce the number of CCI ports required by the control room, especially as an early adopter for ESN. This is because these ports may only be required for interworking and handling visiting radios from non-transitioned forces and the efficiency gains translate directly into a reduction in costs.
Finally, CADI and SDS interfaces are unaffected so the TETRA Gateway servers remain unaffected.
Find out more
We’d love to talk to you about how we can support your control room in migrating to DCS. Your account manager will be in touch with you to carry out a free assessment and design workshop to demonstrate how you could use this technology and create efficiencies, bolster security and get ready for ESN.
If you’d like to speak to us before then, just let us know on 01482 808300 or contact us here