NZ's Public Safety Network launches cellular roaming service

Thursday, 27 July, 2023

NZ's Public Safety Network launches cellular roaming service

Next Generation Critical Communications (NGCC), the body responsible for delivering New Zealand’s new Public Safety Network (PSN), has announced the launch of a critical communications cellular service providing New Zealand’s emergency services with better access to mobile broadband and around 28,000 km2 of additional coverage to help them better serve the community.

The Public Safety Network Te Kupenga Marutau is a significant infrastructure project, investing NZ$1.4 billion over 10 years to build and operate, roll out new devices to emergency services staff, stations and vehicles, and decommission the existing radio network. It consists of three complementary elements: a digital land mobile radio, cellular services and personal alerting.

The multi-network cellular roaming service is the first PSN service delivered on budget and on schedule by NGCC, on behalf of Hato Hone St John, Police, Wellington Free Ambulance, and Fire and Emergency New Zealand. It means emergency services’ phones and wireless devices can use both Spark and One NZ mobile networks to share critical information, including data, voice, video and images.

“The ability to move seamlessly across the two networks will improve coverage, resilience and reliability for the emergency services,” said NGCC Director Steve Ferguson. “Emergency responders will now have better, more reliable cellular access to the information they need when they are out doing their jobs.”

Police Minister Ginny Andersen said the new cellular roaming service will significantly improve emergency services’ ability to access mobile broadband, “which is really important for the technology they use to do their jobs and serve the community. It will also help them to stay safe and work together.”

Being able to use both the Spark and One NZ networks means a 6.5% uplift in useable coverage for emergency responders over the current state. This means the emergency services gain coverage at approximately 15,000 households to support 40,000 more New Zealanders. This will be especially beneficial for emergency responders working in rural areas.

Hato Hone Saint John, Police, Wellington Free Ambulance, and Fire and Emergency New Zealand will now begin migrating their current phones and devices onto the PSN cellular roaming service. By the end of 2023, it is expected that more than 15,000 emergency services staff will be using the roaming service. A further 15,000 vehicles and other devices will be upgraded over the next 12 months and using PSN cellular roaming.

Additionally, any new PSN-capable phones or wireless devices acquired by the four emergency services will be able to use PSN cellular services. There is also scope for other public safety agencies to use the PSN’s cellular services in the future.

A second PSN cellular service will launch in 2024 to give emergency services dedicated high-priority access to the Spark and One NZ networks over all other users at times of network congestion or degradation.

“This priority access to both Spark and One NZ networks for voice, video and data will mean an unprecedented level of cellular communications capability and resilience for New Zealand’s responders and their operational responses,” Ferguson said.

The PSN’s cellular services are being delivered by Hourua — a joint venture of Spark and One NZ, who have come together to meet the enhanced communications needs of our first responders.

Image courtesy Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

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