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UK Home Office drops network extension part of £1.2bn Emergency Services Network

Home Office claims the mobile industry’s commitment to improving poor mobile signal coverage in remote areas means the contract, for which Arqiva was the only remaining bidder, is no longer needed

UK Home Office drops network extension part of £1.2bn Emergency Services Network

The UK’s Home Office has cut one of the four contracts that make up its £1.2bn Emergency Services Network (ESN), which is currently out to tender. Lot 4, which covers extension to mobile coverage services beyond the Lot 3 main wide area network, is no longer required.

Five bidders were originally shortlisted for Lot 4, but due to the difficulty of the contract and the ‘unrealistic’ time scales for delivery, only Arqiva decided to submit a bid (see below for the company's statement on the decision). 

The Home Office said in a statement issued today (14 January 2015) that the Lot 3 tenders, along with mobile “industry-promised significant improvements in areas with poor mobile signal means plans for a national ‘extension to mobile services’ contract are redundant in their current form”.

Originally, areas of the country with poor or non-existent mobile coverage, which weren’t expected to be covered by the main Emergency Services Network (ESN) contract (Lot 3), were expected to be guaranteed signal by an extra ‘extension to mobile services’ contract (Lot 4).

However, the Home Office said that evaluation of tenders has revealed the main contract Lot 3 bids offer unexpected and significant improvements in poor signal areas, negating the need for a Lot 4 contract of the currently specified size and shape. The Lot 3 bidders are: Airwave, EE, Telefonica UK (O2), UK Broadband Networks and Vodafone.

Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mike Penning said: “Although the tender bids are still being evaluated, it is clear that competition for contracts for the new ESN has resulted in offers by the mobile industry, which are significantly beyond our initial expectations.

“The quality of the bids means the areas of the UK that would have remained covered by the Lot 4 ‘extension to mobile services’ contract are now significantly smaller than we envisaged, therefore we do not need to proceed with the contract in its current form.

“The new ESN will be the best in the world and give the emergency services new and vital tools they can use to protect the public and save lives.”

Following the Home Office decision, Arqiva issued the following statement: “Arqiva remains committed to the ESMCP programme and understands the decision to cancel the Lot 4 element of the ESMCP procurement. We cannot speculate on the programme in general or the position of the other three lots and will continue to work with potential and eventual winning bidders where appropriate to ensure our infrastructure across the remotest parts of England, Scotland and Wales can be utilised to help to ensure the delivery of the best possible ESN for Great Britain”


What is ESN?

The Home Office claims that specifications for the new network have been developed in close partnership with the emergency services and will add broadband data capabilities that are increasingly used to help save lives. Broadband data services cannot be delivered via the technology used by the existing TETRA two-way radio system.

The new services will replace the existing system from 2017 as the current contracts expire. ESN is expected to enhance a commercial network to deliver broadband data services. The current service, Airwave, is run on a private mobile radio system.

The Home Office said that “on an enhanced commercial network the emergency services will have priority over other users, which will avoid the need for separate and expensive mobile radio spectrum. Coverage for the emergency services will at least match what is currently provided”.

The contracts for the existing emergency services systems provided by Airwave Solutions Ltd will begin to expire in September 2016 with the final contracts expiring in 2020. The current narrowband TETRA two-way radio service provided by Airwave will be replaced by a broadband cellular network.

Some 250,000 emergency service personnel and approximately 50,000 additional Government related end users will be on the new ESN.

The UK Government has decided that to deliver broadband data services to the emergency services an ‘enhanced’ commercial mobile network is required. The services will be delivered using the winning mobile network operator’s existing spectrum holdings.

The Home Office said in its statement today that “as there is no spectrum available to the emergency services it is not currently possible or thought affordable to procure another private network”.

The original core procurement is divided into four lots, with each one including, but not limited to, the following contents:

Lot 1 – ESN Delivery Partner (DP) – transition support, cross-lot integration and user support: a delivery partner to provide programme management services for cross-lot ESN integration in transition; vehicle installation design and assurance; training support services; and delivery support during the implementation of ESN.

Bidders:  Atkins; Kellogg Brown & Root; Lockheed Martin UK; and Mott MacDonald. A fifth bidder, KPMG LLP did not submit a bid.

Lot 2 – ESN User Services (US) – a technical service integrator to provide end-to-end systems integration for the ESN: to develop and operate the public safety applications; the necessary telecommunications infrastructure; mobile device management; customer support; and service management.

Bidders: HP Enterprise Services UK (working with Thales); and Motorola Solutions UK. Three others did not submit bids: Airwave, Astrium and CGI IT UK.

Lot 3 – ESN Mobile Services (MS) – a resilient mobile network: a network operator to provide an enhanced mobile communications service with highly available full coverage in the defined Lot 3 area (UK), highly available extended coverage over Lot 4 telecommunications infrastructure, and technical interfaces to Lots 2 and 4.

Bidders: Airwave, EE, Telefonica UK (O2), UK Broadband Networks and Vodafone.

Lot 4 – ESN Extension Services (ES) – coverage beyond the Lot 3 network: a neutral host to provide a highly available telecommunications infrastructure in the defined Lot 4 areas to enable the Lot 3 supplier to extend their coverage, technical interfaces to the Lot 3 supplier.

Bidders: Only Arqiva submitted a bid with Telefonica O2, Vodafone, EE and Airwave all declining to do so.

The combined value of the contracts is estimated to be between £555m and £1.220m depending on the extent of take up of services by other government and local public safety bodies in addition to the 3ES and any extension options.

See also:

Bidders drop out of UK’s £1.2bn ESN contract as risks prove unacceptable

UK Home Office flags up four contracts on Emergency Services Network

ESN:a challenging contract

Shortlists announced for UK’s new £1.2bn Emergency Services Network

Will the UK’s Emergency Services Network provide any real commercial benefits?

ESN – too much, too fast?




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