Communications you can count on: Queensland’s GWN

October 18, 2019

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We take a look at the Queensland Government Wireless Network, a benchmark for digital radio’s ability to deliver mission critical voice communications in demanding circumstances.

Even though we live in an age of high-speed internet and data on demand, emergency radio networks are vital in delivering secure, reliable and mission critical voice and data communications. In high-pressure situations, it’s critical to public safety that communications are readily available.

Telstra has been working with the Queensland Government since 2013 to manage and maintain the Queensland Government Wireless Network (GWN), an interoperable radio network for police, fire and ambulance to help our public safety agencies to effectively communicate during emergency situations.

In one of the largest managed service arrangements in Australia, the GWN has delivered a fully-integrated and encrypted communications network that connects all police, fire and ambulance emergency services personnel across the greater Brisbane area and South East Queensland (SEQ). 

“The successful delivery of the GWN was a direct result of a shared vision for an integrated and secure government wireless network, in a spirit of collaboration across Queensland’s public safety agencies,” says Craig Stolte, A/Superintendent, Executive Manager, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.

Clear verbal communication is crucial, especially in high-pressure situations where a single second of audio could make all the difference – the difference between “do” and “don’t”.

The GWN facilitates cross-agency collaboration and the safe, secure delivery of mission-critical information as well as boasting superior audio quality to the analogue-based radio technology previously utilised.

“The cutting-edge technology of the GWN has revolutionised the response capabilities of public safety agencies in SEQ,” says Caleb Moore, A/Director Operations, Frontline Services Group, Queensland Ambulance Service.

“The network has set a new Australian benchmark in encryption, inter-agency interoperability and frontline officer safety.”

For an emergency network, it's critical to consider the unique challenges of the different environments it will operate in. For example, the challenges faced during the G20 Leaders’ summit in crowded Brisbane and the international sporting event held at the Gold Coast in March 2018 attended by countries in the Commonwealth, are significantly different to those it would face out in the remote bush during bushfire season.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of the GWN to the QLD Police Service at major events,” notes Gary Davis, Director, QPS GWN Unit. “The GWN performed yet again recently, with respect to coverage, clarity and performance and helped us to communicate effectively with the other public safety agencies at an event that was on the world stage.”

Through the GWN the Queensland Government has doubled the outdoor portable radio coverage available for first line responders in South East Queensland.  The portable radios utilised by the emergency services on the GWN are designed with demanding and communication critical situations in mind, with single-button GPS-enabled duress alarms giving personnel the ability to quickly call for help. They are also constructed to be strongly resistant to heat and water. 

In a disaster, it’s so important for the emergency services personnel to be able to quickly establish communications, particularly in areas that are remote.  To be able to support the public safety agencies the GWN service provided by Telstra includes several Deployable Mobile Radio Transmission Sites. These Deployable Mobile Radio Transmission Sites, work as all-terrain vehicles, towed to disaster areas and set up so that first responders are able to quickly set up communications on the ground, even when outside the GWN footprint.

Having set a new benchmark for inter-agency interoperability and radio communications encryption, the GWN reaches and services more than 17,500 frontline police, fire and ambulance emergency services personnel in the Queensland– making the GWN a great example of a successful public-private relationship that spans multiple agencies.

Since implementation, the GWN is now being used by non-Public Safety Agencies who share a requirement to interoperate with the Public Safety Agencies as part of their operating model. This demonstrates the flexibility of the GWN to be used by a range of government radio users that have fundamentally different roles, but can communicate with each other on a common platform when they need to.

On a daily basis Telstra, through the GWN, assists in delivering efficient and effective communications for the public safety agencies, ultimately resulting in improved community safety for Queenslanders.

Our technology is available to help the emergency services stay connected and action public safety solutions when disaster strikes.