The North Yorkshire Police force is spending £5.4m on a high-speed voice and data network to link up its dispersed rural stations and allow its bobbies to spend more time on the beat.
The unit has signed a five-year contract with BT for the VoIP wide area network (Wan) that will increase capacity by seven times.
Peter Walker, deputy chief constable of North Yorkshire Police, said the move had been prompted by the increasing amount of data the force moves around its 43 disparate sites, and a desktop upgrade from ICL's text-based Office Power to Microsoft Office.
"[The] VoIP network we are putting in gives us the opportunity of much better computing, particularly in this far-flung force with many rural stations," Walker said.
The investment is part of a "once-in-a-decade" upgrade of its IT infrastructure. "If you came and looked at our computers you would think you had walked into Jurassic Park," Walker said.
The North Yorkshire force is also moving to mm02's controversial Airwave high-speed digital radio network. The new Wan would interoperate with this network and improve links between police out on the beat to stations and call centres.
"It enables the police to work more efficiently without having to come back to the station. It gives them more visibility and more time on patrol," Walker said.
North Yorkshire police is one of the UK's largest forces in terms of square miles, with 1,400 officers covering a largely rural population of 750,000 that spreads from the Yorkshire coast to just a few miles off the Lancashire coast.
BT is to provide fault management for the Wan, checking network health every 15 minutes. The contract will also allow for the network to be reshaped during the five years to adapt to any changes in the force?s requirements.
Work has already begun and should be completed over the course of the summer, said Walker.
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