MoU signals mutual cooperation between Aust and UK

By Geoff Spring and Duncan Swan
Monday, 06 March, 2023

MoU signals mutual cooperation between Aust and UK

In September 2022, the University of Melbourne Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety (CDMPS) and British APCO (BAPCO) executed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that recognised both groups have public safety at their heart, and there was the opportunity to work closer together for mutual benefit to their respective emergency service organisations and the communities they protect and support in times of emergency in Australia and the United Kingdom — recognising our membership of the ‘Commonwealth’.

British APCO has extensive knowledge of public safety IT and communication technology because of its members’ use and delivery of real-life public safety solutions, while within Australia, CDMPS continues to seek recognition in government policy of mission-critical communications as an integrated ecosystem within Australia’s ‘critical infrastructure’.

Through the MoU, BAPCO and CDMPS will seek to establish a relationship to cooperate in a range of areas and to work together for their mutual benefit and encourage and develop collaborative activities in various ways, including the exchange of information; attending business meetings; sharing data; and combining, where possible, to make public statements about their core areas of business.

Topics BAPCO and CDMPS wish to explore for mutual cooperation include:

  • Ensuring each has the common goal of supporting and promoting open standards technologies for critical communications and, where appropriate, sharing research that helps provide an understanding of the global implementation of critical communications technology.
  • Working together in surveying, gathering and evaluating user requirements to provide a common view to enhance disaster management practice and policy.
  • Providing the opportunity for collaborative research and learning for members or researchers from each other’s organisation.

Illustrations of initial areas of interest and collaboration are:

  • The development and use of open standards technologies for critical communications.
  • Public Safety Mobile Broadband (PSMB).
  • Interoperability across critical communications ecosystems.
  • Government policies and strategies relevant to and impacting the critical communications ‘market’.

In the policy context, both the UK and Australia continue to invest in rail and critical communications systems. The Australian Government recently announced one of its key priorities will be to improve the interoperability of Australia’s rail systems in anticipation of the $155 billion investment that Australian governments are about to make in their rail networks with a focus on aligning signalling and control systems, recognising that a lack of national standards is a key challenge for the rail sector.

Likewise, Australia’s national Emergency Management Ministers agreed to a review of natural disaster governance arrangements to ensure that the national governance architecture is ‘fit for purpose’. The Ministers also noted that the PSMB Strategic Review is now complete, and the Australian Government is carefully considering the Review’s recommendations, including next steps required to deliver the PSMB capability. However, notable by its absence was that there was no mention of the Royal Commission into the 2019–20 bushfires recommendation that there should be interoperable communications for Australia’s fire and emergency services across jurisdictions.

Two key areas of work BAPCO is monitoring closely in the UK are the implementation of fully digital NextGen 999/112 and the 4G LTE-based Emergency Services Network. It is not just about the underpinning technology but the opportunity to review and modernise processes that better serve the community when reaching out for help in an emergency, and being better informed when responding to that emergency. In both instances voice remains key but is supplemented by additional communication channels that support data, video and accurate location information.

It is timely then that that ETSI continues with its ‘plug test’ program to test the interoperability of open standards-based products before they come to a market that is consolidating through the development by the 3GPP of MCX standards across both existing and emerging sectors.

Geoff Spring is an Honorary Fellow and Senior Industry Advisor to the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety.

Duncan Swan is Chief Operating Officer of British APCO.

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