Another 25 million needed to ensure SIRESP emergency communications network doesn’t fail

A working group of telecoms experts has recommended that the government plough yet more millions into SIRESP – the emergency telecoms network in the process of being taken into State control (click here).

Says the group, without fundamental changes – which could cost up to €25 million – the network will continue to be dogged by the kind of performance failures that caused so much controversy during the killer fires of 2017 (click here).

Truth be told, SIRESP is forever failing. Firefighting commanders complain that there are numerous areas of the country where the system simply does not work.
A proposal for an upgrade – submitted to the Accounts Court in October – was given the thumbs-down for being ‘opaque’.

At that point (only eight months ago) the bottom line expenditure was given as €15.65 million – and reports claimed that the government had already spent over 463.5 million euros on the system (click here).

Now comes the suggestion that major changes are needed “to make the system safer and less dependant on outgoing shareholders Altice and Motorola”.

Said the working group, SIRESP “has been worse”, but it is still not yet secure. Some of the structures are “very vulnerable”, and when it comes to comparison with international systems, the network simply fails the grade.

Back in the horrors of the fires that killed over 100 people in 2017, SIRESP’s failings were blamed a lot on the melting of overhead cables.

Thus the working group has recommended burying fibre-optic cabling underground, or using hertzian beam power – the idea being that these changes should be made within the next two years (and will cost anything from €8-€10 million).

Recommendations also include “ceasing to use infrastructures belonging to Altice, replacing them with the State’s own infrastructures”, explains Lusa, because – according to the group of experts from the Institute of Telecommunications – private companies’ focus on profit might not tally with public interest.

There were around 50 recommendations overall, to ensure that SIRESP becomes a “robust and resilient” system on which the country’s emergency services can depend.

But no sooner had government sources welcomed the experts’ report than Altice’s president in Portugal Alexandre Fonseca was trashing the findings, saying they showed “profound ignorance and displacement of reality”.

Less than cordial relations with Altice over SIRESP have been simmering since 2017, so Fonseca’s remarks will almost cause temperatures to increase.

He told TSF radio that €25 million is “not enough” to solve SIRESP’s problems, and that it will never be possible to switch from private to public infrastructures because the latter “don’t exist”.

“I am worried”, Fonseca told the station. “It seems this study is an act of intellectual self-stimulation by a group of academic theorists…”

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