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The Home Office appears to be testing the waters ahead of a possible U-turn over elements of Lot 4 of the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP), which it scrapped in January 2015.
According to the prior information notice (PIN), which is available online, the Home Office is planning to host supplier events and market sounding meetings to develop its understanding of the market for the Emergency Services Network – Extended Area Services (ESN-EAS).
If it was to come to fruition, ESN-EAS would comprise of contracts that, in essence, resurrect parts of Lot 4, ESN Extension Services, which included the provision of coverage beyond the Lot 3 mobile network and would have enabled the Lot 3 supplier to extend coverage into rural locations, including National Parks.
It was ditched after it became redundant in light of coverage commitments made by the suppliers invited to bid on Lot 3. At the time, those were Airwave Solutions, EE, Telefónica UK, UK Broadband Networks and Vodafone, although at present only EE remains involved with the process.
The PIN said the ESN-EAS contracts will cover the search and acquisition of suitable telecommunications sites, the design and construction of infrastructure to build on them, the provision of a network to link new masts to the MS Suppliers network via fibre, microwave or satellite and the management and maintenance of said infrastructure.
The Home Office document said a related ESN project to provide telecommunications sites to support communications in the air would also be up for discussion at its supplier event and sounding meetings, although a PIN for this project was first issued in November 2014.
Importantly, the Home Office document said: “This PIN does not formally signify the beginning of any procurement and does not constitute a commitment by Home Office to undertake any procurement exercise.
“In the event the Home Office decides to formally commence procurement pursuant to this PIN, a separate contract notice will be issued.”
The procurement of the other three lots of ESMCP is understood to remain on track, although the wider process has been dogged by problems.
Besides the exit of Telefónica, Hewlett-Packard (HP) revealed it was pulling out of the process, saying it did not believe it could meet “the programme’s requirements and timelines with a level of commercial and technical risk that was acceptable to all parties”.
In May 2015, the Department for Communities and Local Government revealed it was extending its existing Firelink terrestrial-trunked radio (Tetra) network – supplied by Airwave – through to 2020, despite the fact the ESN is supposed to go live in 2016.
Read more about ESMCP
- HP becomes latest supplier to quit the Emergency Services Network supplier framework bid process, citing concerns over risk.
- The Department for Communities and Local Government approves a major extension of the fire services’ Firelink Tetra network to the end of 2019.
- Incumbent Airwave failed to advance to the next stage of the ESN procurement because its Tetra radio technology was too inflexible for current needs, according to reports.