Cops award R900m Tetra deal

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 23 Jan 2009

Integcomm has won a close-to-a-billion rand contract to build a digital command-and-control network for the SAPS, in the Eastern Cape.

Senior superintendent Lindela Mashigo says work on the R920 757 240 terrestrial trunked radio (Tetra) network will begin in April and will take roughly five years to complete.

He says the contract, awarded on 3 December, requires Integcomm to supply, deliver, test, commission and successfully operate the Tetra communication network for the Eastern Cape police.

The intension is to commence with the metropolitan areas then roll it out to the rest of the province, he notes. “The implementation meetings have started already and installation will most probably commence in the new financial year.”

The bulk infrastructure includes three control centres and a number of base repeaters. The control centres will be at East London, Port Elizabeth and Mthatha. Seven companies had bid for the work.

This will be the police's second Tetra network. Former president Thabo Mbeki opened the first - in Gauteng - in October 2007. “This is an important initiative in our fight against crime,” said Mbeki at the time. “It ushers in a new era in crime-fighting across the nation.”

The R600 million contact centre at Grand Central, in Midrand, replaced six analogue facilities. The radio system cost R506 million and the command centre a further R94 million.

The latter consists of a Tetra command-and-control complex and an adjacent 10111 emergency contact point. The command centre is where all calls dialled to 10111 in Gauteng terminate. Information collected here is passed to dispatchers and field units via hand- and vehicle-mounted Motorola Tetra radios.

The Gauteng system includes 67 hilltop base stations fitted with radio frequency repeaters. Speaking at the opening of the Gauteng centre, police Tetra network engineer senior superintendent Richard Irish said Tetra gave police dispatchers the ability to track every officer carrying a radio handset and radio-fitted vehicle in real-time. This allows them to speedily dispatch the nearest law enforcer to a reported incident.

The Gauteng 10111 centre is staffed by 112 police officers and civilians per 12-hour shift. They employ geospatial programming, caller identity and a variety of databases to determine the scene of an incident and to dispatch an appropriate response.

The next province in line to receive the technology is KwaZulu-Natal. Police expect all provinces to have Tetra-based command-and-control, as well as 10111 dispatching by 2015.

Meanwhile, plans to replace Cape Town's analogue APCO16 system with Tetra have been placed on hold “due to financial constraints”, Mashigo says. He adds: “The existing system can function for a number of years still.” Requests-for-tender for Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal “will be published when an indication has been made that funds are available”.