THE long-awaited Garda digital radio system is due to go live next week in parts of Dublin.
The Tetra system, which has been promised by successive governments for more than 10 years, is scheduled to be in place in all Garda divisions within two years.
The old analogue system was built 25 years ago and didn’t work in parts of the country. It could easily be listened into by criminals with cheap and easily available scanners and gardaí on the ground regularly had to use their own personal mobiles for work.
“The main benefit of the new system is security,” said a senior Garda source. “It will deal with ambient listening — people listening in on scanners.”
With the analogue system, criminals could also get a phone and jam the system, he said: “They can’t do that under the new system. If a radio is stolen we can just stun it from the network.”
The Garda source said each phone had a unique number, like mobile phones, and can be shut out from the network.
He said the system could defend itself from attack by criminals looking to disable or interfere with it.
“There are a number of different channels. If there is interference in one channel, we can use another. If there is an attack on a switch, there are multiple switches and they can take over.” The entire Tetra infrastructure has been costed at about €100 million.
Tetra Ireland, comprising Eircom, Motorola and Sigma Wireless, will be responsible for the maintenance of the technology. The Garda Síochána paid for the phones and will pay Tetra for use of the system.
Since 2002, a small number of Dublin units, including Dublin north central division, the Traffic Corps and, recently, the Dublin eastern division have being using a Nokia digital radio system.
Gardaí said the Tetra system is due to start on 15 April in Dublin north central and south central divisions. It is expected to be in use in the entire Dublin Metropolitan region by August. The eastern region will be next, followed by the southern region (prioritising the cities), south east, western and northern regions.
The system is said to have 96% coverage, up to 99% in urban areas. Fire and ambulance services are also due to the fitted with Tetra.
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