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EE and Motorola confirmed as ESN suppliers by Home Office

EE and Motorola have been formally selected to provide a resilient national 4G network for the UK’s ambulance, fire and police services

Mobile network operator (MNO) EE and mobile services supplier Motorola Solutions have been confirmed as the winning bidders to provide the UK’s emergency services with a resilient, national 4G long term evolution (LTE) mobile network, replacing the existing private terrestrial trunked radio (Tetra) system.

The award of the contracts to supply Lots 2 and 3 of the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) was something of a formality. EE had been the only bidder on Lot 3 since O2 dropped out of the running over the summer of 2015, saying that uncertainty over its future meant it could not deliver the best possible bid. HP’s withdrawal from Lot 2 left Motorola as the only supplier in the running to deliver the user services systems integration, management and support contract.

Lot 1, covering programme management services for cross-lot integration in transition, vehicle installation design and assurance, training support services and delivery support during the implementation of the ESN, was awarded to Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) in August 2015.

ESN will cover 30,000 users in the blue light sector, enabling many services to benefit from 4G voice and data services for the first time.

However, the wider ESMCP procurement process has been a source of much controversy for more than a year. The Home Office was heavily criticised for ditching the Tetra system in favour of comparatively untested 4G LTE technology, and was accused of putting lives at risk should the new network not come up to scratch.

Incumbent operator Airwave – which was dropped from the process in February 2015 – has taken the Home Office to court over the procurement of Lot 3. It claims that it was not given equal treatment under the relevant procurement laws, although it has subsequently U-turned on part of its injunction, which caused the overall proves to be temporarily suspended.

An EE spokesperson declined to comment on the ongoing court case at the time of writing.

Expanded, resilient network

The phased transition away from the current Tetra network will begin on schedule in mid-2017, with EE undertaking to build more than 500 cellular sites and deploy a resilient network core to guarantee the service.

To cover services operating in remoter parts of the UK, EE will exploit low-frequency 800MHz spectrum at around 3,800 sites to enhance rural and indoor coverage and implement satellite backhaul services.

Because the ESN will be shared with, yet segregated from, the general public, EE consumer and business customers will also benefit from wider coverage and enhanced reliability as a side effect.

EE said it would increase its previously announced £1.5bn network spend commitment to deliver the ESN.

“We are immensely proud to be selected to deliver this vital network for Britain’s emergency services. We’ve worked closely with the police and ambulance crews to show the power of 4G in helping save time and save lives,” said EE CEO Olaf Swantee.

“We will work tirelessly to deliver a highly resilient, truly nationwide 4G network to serve all of Britain’s blue light and first responder teams across the UK.”

Home Office minister Mike Penning added: “Following the government’s £1bn commitment in the spending review, I am delighted to announce the major achievement in providing the emergency services with a modernised communications network that is able to protect the public and save lives.

“ESN will not only provide this capability to the three emergency services, but more than 300 other public safety organisations that rely on this ability everyday.

“We have carefully evaluated each bidder’s skills and expertise against requirements that were set by the emergency services themselves and we are confident the successful bidders will provide the world-class communications network our services deserve.”

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