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Airwave makes U-turn on emergency network injunction

The UK emergency network operator decides to drop an injunction preventing the Home Office from finding a cheaper operator

Just days after Airwave announced it was being sold to Motorola Solutions, the UK emergency network operator has said it will no longer prevent the Home Office from finding a cheaper operator.

In November 2015, the incumbent emergency services communications supplier Airwave took the Home Office to court over the procurement of Lot 3 – mobile services – of the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP), claiming it was not given fair treatment under procurement laws.

The ESMCP process was automatically suspended when Airwave launched the legal challenge. However, amid suggstions that it could be perceived as milking the government contract, Airwave has now said it will drop its opposition to the suspension being lifted.

Nevertheless, in a statement Airwave stressed that it would continue to purse the legal case against the Home Office for damages. 

“We have issued a claim against the Home Office relating to the procurement for Lot 3 of the proposed emergency services network. We do not believe bidders, including Airwave, were given equal treatment under relevant procurement laws and we have made a claim to protect our position for any loss suffered. We are not pursuing the continuation of a suspension as we do not wish to delay the procurement process, but we remain fully committed to our claim related to the Lot 3 process,” the company said.

As Computer Weekly previously reported, Airwave was one of a number of potential bidders on Lot 3 of the ESMCP procurement, but walked away from the process earlier in 2015 amid suggestions the government felt that Tetra was too expensive and too inflexible. The original Airwave contract is set to expire in September 2016.

In November 2015, EE was quietly confirmed as the preferred bidder on Lot 3, and in August 2015, the Home Office announced Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) had won Lot 1, becoming the first delivery partner for ESMCP.

In an interview with Computer Weekly, Airwave chief operating officer John Lewis said that 4G LTE technology was not ready to meet the needs of the emergency services, particularly in remote parts of the country where obtaining even 3G network connectivity is a struggle.

“Motorola, the only bidder left on Lot 2, says LTE won’t be ready until 2020 or 2022, so even the government bidders that are going to deliver the system don’t think it will be ready,” he said.

On 4 December 2015, Motorola Solutions announced it was buying Airwave for £700m. Motorola Solutions chairman and CEO Greg Brown said: “The combination of our years of experience as a trusted global leader in mission-critical communications, and Airwave’s proven service delivery platform, will provide Great Britain with innovative emergency services technology that enhances public safety today and into the future.”

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