Report reveals delays, cost blowout for NSW PSN

By Lauren Davis
Tuesday, 04 July, 2023

Report reveals delays, cost blowout for NSW PSN

The Audit Office of New South Wales last week released a report assessing the NSW Telco Authority’s effectiveness at managing the state’s Critical Communications Enhancement Program (CCEP), which aims to deliver an enhanced Public Safety Network (PSN) to serve the five emergency services organisations (ESOs) — NSW Ambulance, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Police Force, NSW Rural Fire Service and NSW State Emergency Service — as well as a range of other users. The CCEP will deliver a PSN with 85% geographical coverage across NSW (up from 26% in 2016), reaching 99.7% of the population (up from 80%).

The report found that the current estimated capital cost to complete the CCEP is $1.293 billion — a 300% increase from the estimated cost of $400 million in 2016. The updated estimate was not publicly disclosed until $1.325 billion was shown in the 2021–22 NSW Budget Papers, the report found, with the auditor estimating that the full cost to government — including costs to the ESOs — of implementing the enhanced network is likely to exceed $2 billion.

When completed, the PSN will be the only mission-critical radio network for ESOs. The report notes that the CCEP currently has a revised completion date of 2027, seven years later than estimated in 2016. It found that, where it has already been delivered (about 50% of the state), the enhanced network meets most of the requirements of ESOs; however, it is unclear whether governance for the ongoing running of the network will allow ESOs to participate in future network operational decisions.

The report also acknowledged that the CCEP will provide additional infrastructure for public safety radio coverage in existing buildings agreed to with ESOs. However, radio coverage inside buildings constructed after the conclusion of the CCEP is expected to be at risk, because building and fire regulations do not address the need for in-building public safety radio coverage.

Around 98% of radios connected to the network can be authenticated to protect against cloning, the report stated, though only 42% are currently. The NSW Telco Authority has apparently not yet settled with ESOs on how call encryption will be used across the network, which creates the risk that radio interoperability between ESOs will not be maximised.

Based on the results of the report, the auditor has made recommendations covering the following:

  • The governance of the enhanced PSN to support agency relationships.
  • The need to finalise a Traffic Mitigation Plan for when the network is congested.
  • The need to provide advice to the NSW Government about the regulatory gap for ensuring adequate network reach in future buildings.
  • The need to clarify how encryption and interoperability will work on the enhanced network.
  • The need for the NSW Telco Authority to comply with its policy on Infrastructure Capacity Reservation.
  • Expediting measures to protect against the risk of cloning by unauthenticated radios.

The full report can be viewed here.

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