The Chief Fire Officers Association's BA Telemetry Lead Gary Walsh reports on future 4G mobile technology and its implications for fire and rescue services.

4G mobiles will soon be with us in the UK, bringing superfast mobile broadband speeds to the palm of our hands.

Surfing the net on smart phones and laptop dongles will be much faster than what can be achieved with today's 3G connections, potentially achieving the same performance as what you currently get at home through your ADSL broadband.

Ofcom plans to start auctioning new spectrum licences for 4G later this year; however new 4G services will not begin their roll out until 2013.

Not only is this good news for consumers, this is also good news for fire and rescue services which can take full advantage of what 4G offers. This includes collecting real-time data from fireground activities to build ever better operational response to incidents, as well as providing opportunities for sharing data with other emergency services.

These benefits are to be welcomed; however, 4G could also impact on some of the wireless equipment currently used by FRSs. This is because 4G mobiles will use frequencies close to those used by the telemetry equipment which is attached to some firefighters' breathing apparatus. Because of their close proximity, 4G might interfere with the telemetry devices, but not with the breathing apparatus itself.

Recognising the importance of the issue, the Chief Fire Officers Association has formed a working group of organisations representing the Fire Sector* and Ofcom - the UK communications regulator. We were determined to address this issue early to ensure that the needs of the FRS were fully addressed right from the beginning of the process. 

I am pleased to report that the government has committed to providing us with funding to resolve this interference issue, and Ofcom is providing technical advice to allow us to assess and manage the situation effectively.

The Fire Sector-led Working Group has identified a number of options for managing any issues and is currently in the process of reviewing what will deliver the best results for the short and long term. CFOA is mindful that the crucial issue at stake in this matter is the safety of firefighters and their on-going confidence in the equipment that they use. As such, their focus has been on ensuring that safety is at the centre of every consideration undertaken. 

See next issue of FIRE for more updates from the Chief Fire Officers Association.


Posted July 11th, 2012 at 1205 by Andrew. Comment by emailing