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The Home Office has awarded the Lot 1 Emergency Services Network (ESN) contract to engineering firm Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) after lengthy negotiations.
KBR will take charge of delivering transition support, integration and user support as the emergency services begin to transition onto the ESN from mid-2017.
Among other things, it will provide 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.
KBR has experience in delivering large infrastructure schemes, but is better known for its work in offshore oil and gas exploration and large-scale chemical plants.
Minister for policing, crime, criminal justice and victims, Mike Penning, said: “We are determined our goal to provide the UK’s emergency services with the best communications network in the world is implemented as quickly as possible. I am delighted I can now announce we have awarded the first contract. We remain on course to sign further contracts later this year.
“Making sure our emergency services have the best tools to help them do their job is paramount. As well as offering the emergency services much more capacity, flexibility and functionality than the old system, the new network will also save the taxpayer more than £1bn over the next 15 years.”
Negotiations with the bidders on Lots 2 and 3 – Motorola and EE respectively – are expected to conclude later in the autumn, although because both suppliers are in fact the only remaining bidders to supply the two lots, the headline results of the talks are a foregone conclusion.
A potential extension to Lot 3, ESN Extended Area Services, which would cover the provision of mobile networking capabilities for blue light services in National Parks and other extreme rural areas, was tabled by the Home Office earlier in August 2015.
Ultimately, ESN will replace the existing private terrestrial trunked radio (Tetra) network currently provided by Airwave, using an enhanced commercial mobile network to deliver public safety functionality, with features guaranteeing priority for the emergency services over civilian users.
The Home Office has been extensively criticised for choosing not to procure a private system, but has insisted throughout the process that an enhanced commercial network presents better value for money.
ESN will cover 250,000 operational staff across 44 police and crime commissioners and police forces, 50 fire and rescue services, 13 ambulance trusts, the National Crime Agency, the British Transport Police, the Ministry of Defence Police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the National Police Air Service. The total value of the three contracts is predicted to be somewhere between £555m and £1.22bn, depending on take-up.