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Airwave network deal extended until end of 2026

25/01/22
Blue lights on police cars

The arrangement for the provision of the Airwave network for emergency services has been extended by four years until the end of 2026.

A newly published contract notice shows the Home Office has signed deals with Airwave Solutions – now owned by Motorola Solutions – to provide network services police forces and fire and rescue services, with values of £1.33 billion and £141 million respectively.

These are accompanied by contracts with the Department for Health and Social Care, valued at £83.9 million, to support the Ambulance Radio Programme; and with the Scottish Ambulance Service Board at £3.1 million.

It provides a further indication of the need to extend the life of the network due to long delays in the implementation of its replacement, the Emergency Services Network (ESN). Earlier this month the Police Digital Service published a prior information notice deriving from plans to set up a procurement framework for devices and services based on Airwave.

Delayed roll out

The ESN programme has run years late, with the roll out of the network now scheduled for completion in December 2024 against an initial deadline of 2019. It has been criticised by the National Audit Office and Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, with projections that the costs will outweigh the savings until 2029.

The technical capabilities of Airwave are not as far advanced of those planned for the ESN, with the former using terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA), while the latter should provide 4G and 5G capabilities along with air to ground contact.

The Competition and Markets Authority has been running an investigation into Airwave focused on the dual role of Motorola Solutions in the legacy network and the ESN. It said this has raised issues around the pricing of Airwave and the roll out of the ESN, and in October called in an independent inquiry group.

Image from iStock, Matt Gush

 

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