Upgrades to radio network for NSW’s emergency services agencies are likely to cost the state over $2 billion, a government report has found.
According to the Audit Office of NSW, the ongoing Critical Communications Enhancement Program (CCEP), which was established to provide improved coverage and service to all NSW government essential services agencies, will incur a rounded capital cost of $1.3 billion on completion.
This marks a significant rise from its $400 million capital cost in 2016, a 300 per cent rise.
Implementing the CCEP across the government, including to emergency services organisations (ESOs), is likely to exceed $2 billion, the Audit Office said.
The CCEP was originally intended to be completed in 2020 but is now forecast to be finished by 2027 with the enhanced Public Safety Network (PSN) being approximately 50 per cent complete by April this year.
“The NSW Telco Authority consulted extensively with ESOs on requirements for the enhanced PSN, with relatively few ESO requirements not being included in the specifications for the enhanced PSN. Lessons from previous events, including the 2019–20 summer bushfires, have informed the design and implementation of the enhanced PSN (such as the need to ensure adequate backup power supply to inaccessible sites),” the report said.
The report also claimed that there “is no mechanism to ensure adequate radio coverage within new building infrastructure after the CCEP concludes”, although the NSW Telco Authority and ESOs have agreed an approach to prioritise existing in-building sites for coverage for the duration of the CCEP, the report added.
From a security perspective, 98 per cent of radios connected to the network can be authenticated to protect against cloning. However, only 42 per cent feature this protection.
“The NSW Telco Authority has not settled with ESOs on how call encryption will be used across the network. This creates the risk that radio interoperability between ESOs will not be maximised,” the report said.
“When completed, the public safety radio network will be the only mission critical radio network for ESOs. It is unclear whether governance for the ongoing running of the network will allow ESOs to participate in future network operational decisions, it added
In March 2023, the NSW Telco Authority and ESOs agreed on a list of 906 mandatory and 7,086 non-mandatory sites for in-building PSN coverage. Of the 906 mandatory sites, the NSW Telco Authority has estimated that around 650 will receive coverage from nearby external towers and antennae, meaning that between 200 and 250 sites will require specific infrastructure or other solutions to ensure adequate in-building coverage.
The Authority estimated that around 140 (2 per cent) of the non-mandatory sites would require their own infrastructure to receive adequate coverage.
Meanwhile, last year, the Authority began looking for partners to help build the Public Safety Mobile Broadband (PSMB), which was set out to deliver a mobile broadband capability to help ESOs.