ntl:Telewest Business Powers DFRS with Next-Gen Network

Dorset Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) has deployed a high speed next generation network from ntl:Telewest Business, part of the Virgin Media group, to connect 30 sites across the county. The managed Wide Area Network (WAN) and IP telephony service connects local fire stations with the Service's new headquarters in Poundbury, the pioneering eco-town designed by HRH The Prince of Wales and built on Duchy of Cornwall land.

DFRS, which is governed by the Dorset Fire Authority (DFA), responds to emergencies and carries out essential prevention work across 2,652 square kilometres. With 26 fire stations and 800 staff located across a broad area, ranging from small retained rural stations to larger wholetime stations, having a fast and reliable communications infrastructure that connects them all is vital for providing the community with a critical service. The network also connects the DFRS' training centre, vehicle workshop and Eastern area command centre.

The organisation's previous unmanaged legacy network could no longer provide the resilience required due to its hub and spoke design. If the service headquarters lost connectivity, all other sites went down. Peak times proved particularly problematic as the network was prone to losing connections and its performance unpredictable.

Following an extensive tender process, DFRS chose ntl:Telewest Business' Ethernet-based Virtual Private Network (VPN) service due to its flexibility, resilience, cost benefits and the company's partnership approach. The new network provides the flexibility to scale bandwidth according to each fire station's individual requirements with connections ranging from 2 to 8 Megabits-per-second (Mbps).

The high-speed network is also being used by the DFRS to run computerised fire engine mobilisation across the county. As soon as the Fire Control Team receives an emergency call for response, the system automatically decides which fire engines should be despatched depending on their proximity to the incident. Business continuity has also been increased by a remote back-up service run from DFRS' Dorchester site. If one part of the network experiences an outage, information is protected and call availability is maintained at all times.

To increase cost-savings, Voice over IP (VoIP) for telephone calls is also being rolled out across a number of sites, including the Service's new headquarters. As a result of the high speed network, staff also have fast and efficient access to administrative applications and email across all sites.

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