The Police Digital Service (PDS) is planning to set up a procurement framework for devices and services based on the Airwave emergency communications network.
It has published a prior information notice inviting potential suppliers to join a discussion on the options and indicating that the framework will be open not just for police forces but ambulance and fire and rescue services.
The move indicates that emergency services are expected to continue to make use of Airwave, which has been in place since the early 2000s, for some time while they await the full implementation of the replacement Emergency Services Network (ESN).
The notice indicates that the framework will cover terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA) handsets, software, accessories, services and maintenance, and will have a value of up to £50 million.
In an accompanying statement, PDS said it is aiming to have the framework in place around late June and that it will last for four years.
Maintaining critical services
It said: “The new multi-supplier framework agreement will maintain delivery of critical communications equipment and services to 107 police, fire and ambulance services in England, Scotland and Wales and other law enforcement agencies until the ESN, the Government’s chosen option to replace Airwave, goes live.”
The development of the ESN by the Home Office has been beset by problems and lengthy delays. It was originally scheduled to be in place by 2017, but the programme was reset in 2018 towards a series of incremental launches.
In May 2019 the National Audit Office published a critical report that said the costs had risen by at least 50% from the original estimate to £9.3 billion, and that they will not be outweighed by savings until 2029. The Home Office has said it will ultimately provide savings compared with Airwave.
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