Police splurge $13 million to silence radio eavesdropping

Analogue turns digital while police hold breath for open source.

The troubled radio network used by the Tasmanian Police will finally be upgraded, following a $13 million contract with former operator Ericsson.

The Police Association has called for a replacement for the trunk radio network, known as the Enhanced Digital Access Communication System (EDACS), since the Swedish vendor won the $23 million contract in 1995.

A spate of problems followed soon after which forced the digital network to fall back to analogue. Network drop outs continued and new security problems developed allowing the network to be tapped.

The analogue network is vulnerable to eavesdropping, and it is understood that the system had been compromised.

The digital network and individual call functions were shut down because it was unreliable. It sounded like people were talking underwater.

Police Association

Police and Emergency Management Minister Jim Cox said the upgrades will improve the security and responsiveness of police in the interim until a new whole-of-government system is built.

"The upgraded network will not only provide increased radio coverage and capacity, it will also increase the network's reliability and see the return to digital transmission in urban areas," Cox said.

"It will also allow for the use of new portable and mobile radio terminals, with mobile units to be installed in vehicles.

"Importantly, these improvements will address matters that have been of some concern to operational police officers."

A communications failure on the EDACS in the state's north-west region was the latest concern for police, causing an overload of calls to the dispatch centre.

Police were forced to use an archaic analogue network after a series of problems disrupted operations, including the total failure of the digital network, opening serious communication and security holes.

The upgrades path way for the new government-wide open source radio network, estimated at $25 million, which will operate on a mix of technologies and open platforms using the APCO 25 radio communications standard.

The network will likely use a new spectrum and handsets, and utilise existing technology included in the EDACS upgrade.

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