What is the Public Safety Network?
The Public Safety Network is the new critical communications service for New Zealand’s frontline emergency services responders consisting of cellular, land mobile radio and personal alerting elements. Together, these three complementary technologies will provide the emergency services with modern, secure and resilient critical communications that enable them to do their jobs, stay safe and support our communities.
The Public Safety Network is a significant step beyond existing network capabilities.
Why does New Zealand need a Public Safety Network?
Emergency services need to replace their existing analogue critical communications, many of which are obsolete, replacement parts are no longer manufactured, and existing infrastructure (towers, foundations and radio equipment) requires modernisation to meet future communication needs.
What will the new Public Safety Network mean for the emergency services?
Frontline emergency services will be able to send and receive information more securely, enable better collaboration, reducing duplication and enabling them to work together more effectively on multi-agency responses.
The ability of emergency services to communicate effectively and securely with their staff is fundamental to the safety of over 35,000 frontline responders and the communities through New Zealand that they serve.
Reliable, secure and capable communications are critical in today’s world where frontline emergency responders are confronted with a variety of challenging and stressful situations from single person emergency incidents to wide-impact regional events.
How will the PSN help the emergency services in large natural disasters like Cyclone Gabrielle?
The Public Safety network has been designed with features critical for emergency services when responding to incidents of the scale of Cyclone Gabrielle.
The PSN LMR network will be able to provide local communications when connectivity is lost that commercial networks such as cellular are not able to provide. This means people using the PSN LMR will be able to communicate among each other even if they are not able to communicate to their communication centre.
PSN LMR will also enable the different emergency services to communicate with each other on a single, secure network helping with their safety and the effectiveness of any operation they are working on together.
PSN Cellular Roaming will mean the emergency services will be able to move between Spark and One NZ if either network is down to increase their access to mobile communications. PSN Cellular Priority will mean the emergency services will get priority access to the cellular network above all other calls.
A personal alerting service for FENZ, Wellington Free Ambulance and Hato Hone St John will be provided over a stabilised paging network which is critical for emergency responses in remote communities supported by volunteers.
What is being done to keep the existing communications network going?
Work is underway through a Radio Assurance Programme to ensure that existing radio networks remain fit for purpose and are maintained until all Agencies have transitioned to the Public Safety Network.
Transition to the new network will be done safely and on a regional basis to ensure there is minimal disruption to the public or emergency service.
When will the Public Safety Network be in place?
A programme within Next Generation Critical Communications – the Public Safety Network Programme - was established in 2020 to deliver this work and contracts have been signed with vendors Hourua and Tait Kordia Joint Venture. The project is now in the design and build phase.
The Public Safety Network went live in July 2023 with the successful launch of the first cellular service - Roaming. A further cellular service called Priority will go live in late 2024.
Detail on the 2024 work programme for the Digital Land Mobile Radio will follow shortly.
What is the cost of the Public Safety Network?
To deliver the project, Cabinet has approved an investment of $1.4 billion to be spent over 10 years. This investment will fund the build and operating of the Public Safety Network and migrating the emergency services to it, including to provide new devices for staff, stations, and vehicles.
Funding for the Public Safety Network will come from Agency contributions and Cabinet-approved government funding. Over time, the network will be opened to other government users.
What is Tait Kordia Joint Venture contracted to do?
Tait Kordia Joint Venture is contracted to deliver a Digital Land Mobile Radio network built with sufficient resilience to enable emergency services to communicate even in the event of a significant natural disaster.
Digital Land Mobile Radio supports ‘push to talk’ communications which are used extensively by emergency services, provides location services, and is encrypted and secure.
What is Hourua contracted to do?
Hourua is contracted to deliver Priority and Roaming Services which will improve existing cellular network coverage resilience through a multi-network solution and allow emergency services to better share information.
Hourua will ensure emergency communications take priority over other mobile users on the Spark and One NZ cellular networks when the networks are congested or degraded, for example, in the case of a significant natural disaster.
Hourua will also enable roaming across the Spark and One NZ networks which will increase cellular coverage for emergency services and significantly improve their ability to access mobile broadband if there are network faults or other outages.
Will the Public Safety Network give members of the public improved cellular coverage for their personal use?
Because only emergency services are using the Public Safety Network, the public will not gain any increases in cellular coverage for their personal use.
There will be no new mobile transmission sites built for the Public Safety Network; instead, cellular coverage for the emergency services will be increased because they will be enabled by Hourua’s work to roam across the Spark and One NZ networks creating a 6.5% uplift in usable coverage (28,000 square kilometres) meaning emergency services gain coverage at an additional approximately 15,000 households nationwide.
Are other government agencies involved in the Public Safety Network?
There is scope for additional agencies to come on board in the future. The solutions delivered will provide a solid communication platform for the core four agencies involved, which can be built on, evolved, and enhanced in the future in collaboration with additional agencies.
Next Generation Critical Communications is continuing to engage with other government agencies about the Public Safety Network, including on matters that may arise after Cyclone Gabrielle.
What Cabinet approvals have there been?
In April 2020, Cabinet approved a request to go to market to procure the products and services required to deliver a Public Safety Network.
The initial request recommended a cellular based solution which after rigorous international research and benchmarking was found to be not technically feasible or affordable to meet the resilience and coverage needed due to New Zealand’s geographic environment.
The work was completed through a robust, comprehensive RFP (Request for Proposal) process that engaged across the emergency communications industries both within NZ and internationally.
In August 2022 Cabinet approved an Implementation Business Case for the Public Safety Network that enables Next Generation Critical Communications to execute contracts with two preferred vendors.