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Exhibition 1971

Directorate of Telecommunications


This paper traces the growth of 10 Regional Wireless Depots with a Staff of 150 to the present Field Organisation with a Staff of 700. The Organisation's responsibilities for installation and maintenance are explained, together with some of the maintenance problems and the measures being taken to deal with them.


The main functions of the Field Organisation within the Directorate of Telecommunications are:

a. Installation
b. Maintenance

These responsibilities are discharged through the medium of 10 depots, 2 subdepots, and 2 Special Maintenance Units distributed throughout England and Wales.

Some ten years ago in order to reduce customer/depot vehicle mileage an experimental detachment of one technician was set up at Guildford, his main responsibility being maintenance of mobile sets. As a result of the success of this unit others were set up and the number of technicians at each unit increased with the work load, until today some 60 outstations operate throughout the 10 depot areas.

Within the last two years certain outstations have been put in charge of a Senior Wireless Technician who is not only responsible for his own augmented outstation, but also for other outstationed technicians who together cover an operational area. The increased status of the outstations has enabled their range of responsibilities to be enlarged and it now includes all forms of maintenance including mobile and main stations.

The regional effort is co-ordinated by a small headquarters section and three area Senior Wireless Engineers with the following responsibilities:

a. Northern Area
  comprising Marley Hill, Kippax, Billinge depots.

b. Midland Area
  comprising Bridgend, (Colwyn Bay), Shapwick, (Tavistock), Romsley, Stanton depots

c. Southern Area
  comprising Cranbrook, Hannington, Cheveley depots

The system by which customer complaints are investigated, set up in 1969, requires that the appropriate area SWE endeavours to arrange for a technical appraisal to be carried out within forty-eight hours of the complaint being received.

As soon as any conclusions are reached, he reports his recommendations to the complainant, to Headquarters, and to the Regional Wireless Engineer in charge of the appropriate depot. These recommendations are then passed to the appropriate Headquarters Section for action. The first report associated with complex complaints will almost certainly be followed by others based on the results of the initial action.

Two special maintenance units were set up in 1967 and 1969 respectively:

a. Bishops Cleeve - responsible for Police Pocketfone maintenance and Firemens Alert receiver maintenance

b. Weyhill - responsible for Test equipment calibration and maintenance and Closed circuit television maintenance and Other specialised equipment maintenance.


a.   Installation

Installation work can be categorised by the magnitude of the individual task. Small tasks such as temporary, emergency and Firemens Alert installations are planned and executed by the Regional Wireless Engineer, supported by the Field Organisations.

Major tasks such as main schemes, control systems, including parts of and improvements to them, are planned by the Headquarters Current Engineering Section. The equipment is pre-assembled by the installation section at the Central Communications Establishment, Harrow, and installed and tested as a package by installation teams; the teams are based at the Regional Wireless Depot and are responsible to the Regional Wireless Engineer.

b.   Maintenance

Maintenance is the largest single consumer of manpower within the Directorate. It is executed entirely by the Field Organisation through its Regional and Special units.

All users of communications and other electronic equipment are faced with a problem of ever increasing urgency in respect of the testing and repair of the vital units which together comprise the system.

The conditions under which modern communications equipment operates, and the fact that many technical advances are used to assist the user, together cause greater complexity and the use of many more component parts. These factors, coupled with the demand for smaller size, result in equipment with component densities from five to ten times greater than they were ten years ago.

Although component reliability has increased, eg solid state devices such as transistors replacing valves, factors such as this are more than offset by the complexity and density of package. The increased complexity and tighter limits demand ever increasing skill on the part of the technician carrying out the maintenance.

Skills of the kind required are in great demand and frequently in short supply, and there is no doubt that the demands for such skills can be eased by the use of Automatic Test Systems which, however, because of their investment cost, are only economic if they handle very large numbers of units.

During the past two years the Directorate has examined Automatic Test Systems (ATS), and has considered how they might best be employed. The factors to be taken into account are as follows:

a. Economic use of ATS demands full employment of expensive equipment which in turn implies centralised repair of large numbers of units.

b. The present system, built up over a number of years, whereby skilled technicians are outstationed close to centres of customer activity, performs a very useful function in many ways, and it would be a pity if centralised servicing led to their disbandment.

c. Mobile and main station equipments are too bulky for easy transportation in large numbers.

Maintenance Problems

Alert Receivers

Bulk transportation of Firemen's alert receivers in special transit cases is no problem, in fact units from the North of England can be at Bishops Cleeve (our central repair depot) in five hours.

This receiver has been chosen for the first excursion into automatic testing and Messrs Marconi Instruments have been entrusted with the task of producing a system, which should be coming into service at the beginning of 1972.

Although automatic testing has been highly successful for a number of years, particularly in the aircraft industry, the step which we now propose to take will involve reliable interconnection at radio frequencies without the use of special connectors. Nowhere in the world has this been done before, and the Directorate is therefore breaking new ground, as it did previously with Police Pocketfones and batteries.

The system by which the Service will be supplied with serviceable alert receivers is a very simple one. Outstations and depots will retain serviceable spare equipment which will be uncoded and therefore suitable for use at any station . When an unserviceable unit is received, it will be given a simple go/no go test to ensure that the coding unit is serviceable. The coding unit will be removed and inserted into the serviceable receiver which will be tested and handed over on a one for one basis.

Mobile Equipment

The application of automation to mobile equipment maintenance need not be incompatible with the retention of outstations, or with Service Communications Personnel playing a full part in maintenance of their communications. A three stage system would operate as follows:-

a. First Line Servicing

Simple assessment of the location of the fault within the vehicle installation by Service Communications Personnel, and fault rectification by replacement of main equipment, controller, or speaker, from equipment either held as rented spares or removed from a less essential vehicle.

b. Second Line Servicing

Repair of controller, replacement of speaker, or breakdown of main equipment into sub-units followed by replacement of such sub-units found to be faulty. This work would be carried out by outstation personnel.

c. Third Line Servicing

Fault diagnosis of sub-units down to component level, followed by replacement of faulty part. This work would be carried out at a central depot using Automatic Test Systems as appropriate. Transportation of faulty equipment would follow the existing pattern for pocket equipment. Units would be replaced on a one for one basis.

Gradual fall-off in the performance of mobile equipment has always presented a problem. The system of daily tests of an equipment at its home location will prove that the equipment is working, but unless the home location is in a poor reception area it will not prove how well it is working, or ensure that when the vehicle is at an incident , in a poor reception area, the all important message can be passed.

Preventive maintenance - recently restarted - can be the means of locating many faults which contribute to poor communications.

Main Station Eguipment

Two systems are used at present for diagnosing faults at main stations:

a. The Regional Depot can monitor the main transmitters of a scheme on a panoramic adaptor which displays the outputs of the transmitters side by side on a cathode ray tube. From this display the technician at the depot is able to say which transmitter is faulty.

b. The Service operator can make a series of tests with mobile units and from the results of these tests make an assessment as to the probable location of the fault. "Probable" is used because correct diagnosis depends on many factors, quite apart from the need for a highly skilled operator.

As a result of these diagnostic processes, either a technician will proceed to the location of the fault, the Service operator will make a bay change and test again, in accordance with a standard plan.

This approach suffers from the disadvantage that in the case of depot tests insufficient information is available to make a complete diagnosis, and in the case of the Service operator tests the information is not sufficiently positive to ensure correct diagnosis. Using existing operational equipment, a special switching system and an additional special receiver capable of resolving main transmitter outputs individually, it is possible to diagnose a fault to a particular unit at a particular site without tests with mobile units. The advantages of such a system, coupled with the ability remotely to change individual units instead of bays, are as follows:-

continued on page 2 ....Acknowledgement: Home Office DOT Exhibition 1971 Papers
page updated: 08/11/19

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