Kellogg Brown & Root Limited (KBR) has been awarded the first contract on the UK Government’s £1.2bn Emergency Services Network (ESN), the Home Office announced today (27 August 2015). KBR was tipped to win the contract last week.
The firm saw off competition from three rivals – Atkins, Lockheed Martin and Mott McDonald – to clinch the deal. KBR is best known for its activities in the engineering and construction industries. It specialises in technology-driven engineering, procurement and construction projects, programme management and delivery of large infrastructure schemes. KBR is working with fellow engineering consultancy Arup and specialist IT and communications consultant Mason Advisory as part of its team.
The ESN Lot 1 Delivery Partner involves project and programme management services including: transition support, cross-lot integration and user support; 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.
The Home Office said that negotiations with the preferred bidders for the remaining contracts – Motorola (Lot 2) and EE (Lot 3) are continuing and contract awards are expected in the autumn. There is no competition for either of these key Lots, as the other bidders either declined to submit bids, were eliminated earlier in the process, or pulled out at the best and final offer stage.
Lot 2 ESN User Services involves being a technical service integrator to provide end-to-end systems integration for the ESN. The supplier has to develop and operate: the public safety applications; the necessary telecommunications infrastructure; mobile device management; customer support; and service management. Motorola is the sole bidder for Lot 2 as its only rival HP pulled out in July (the other three shortlisted firms declined to submit bids due to the high risks involved).
Lot 3 ESN Mobile Services involves providing the main area resilient mobile network and technical interfaces to Lot 2. EE is the only bidder for this Lot following the decision by Telefonica O2 to withdraw from the bidding in June. The other three bidders (Airwave, Vodafone and UK Broadband Networks) were eliminated earlier in the process.
ESN originally included a Lot 4 covering network extension services to the main Lot 3 network. The Home Office dropped this lot at the beginning of the year claiming it could be covered by Lot 3. However, it now appears to have been forced to backtrack as it published a PIN (prior information notice) on 13 August in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) with what appears to be a revamped version of Lot 4.
Five bidders were originally shortlisted for Lot 4, but only Arqiva was prepared to submit a bid with the others all declining on grounds that the timescales were unrealistic and, it is generally thought, the fact that it was impossible to make money on it.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mike Penning, said: “We are determined that our goal to provide the UK’s emergency services with the best communications network in the world is implemented as quickly as possible and I am delighted that 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 well over £1bn over the next 15 years.”
The Home Office statement issued today says that ‘new services will replace the existing system from mid-2017 as the current contracts expire’. This is interesting as the first contracts with Lancashire Police and Greater Manchester Police actually expire in September or October 2016, begging the question as to what will happen here.
The UK Government is taking the unprecedented step of moving its emergency services communication network onto a commercial mobile network, including both voice and data services – something no other country in the world is currently prepared to do.
Where 4G LTE networks have been built or are proposed for emergency services, they are being used purely for broadband data services, with mission critical voice services being kept on existing narrowband radio technologies such as P25 in the USA and TETRA in Europe and the Middle East.
This is because the 4G LTE was never designed for mission critical use. The standard does not incorporate a wide range of vital mission critical applications, especially for voice. The standards bodies 3GPP and ETSI are working to write them in. Release 13, due for publication this year, will have some applications, but many will have to wait for Release 14 and some of them are not expected to be included until Release 15, which is not due out until 2018.
The current UK service, Airwave, is delivered using a private mobile TETRA radio system, and provides mission critical voice and some data services to 250,000 police, fire and ambulance personnel, and a further 50,000 others.
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