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Airwave drops opposition to suspension of ESN procurement process

Airwave to proactively drop its opposition to the automatic suspension of the new £1.2bn Emergency Services Network procurement process, but will continue its pursuit of damages over the award of the Lot 3 Main Area Network contract

Airwave drops opposition to suspension of ESN procurement process

Airwave is proactively dropping its opposition to the suspension of the procurement process of the new £1.2m Emergency Services Network, it announced today (7 December 2015). Under EU rules the procurement process was automatically suspended after Airwave issued a writ against the Home Office over the bidding process for the Lot 3 Main Area Network contract in the Technology and Construction Court on 23 November 2015.

A hearing relating to the automatic suspension is due to be held in the Technology and Construction Court this week on 8 and 9 December 2015. However, Airwave, the incumbent provider of mission critical communication services to the UK’s emergency services, said it still intends to pursue damages as it believes that the Lot 3 bidding process was unfair.

The company is perhaps sensitive to accusations that delaying the contract would be financially beneficial to Airwave. It said today that its intention was never to hold up the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) to pursue additional funding for service.

Airwave released a statement saying: “We have issued a claim against the Home Office relating to the procurement for Lot 3 of the proposed emergency services network. We do not believe that bidders, including Airwave, were given equal treatment under relevant procurement laws and we have therefore made a claim in order to protect our position for any loss suffered. We are not pursuing the continuation of a suspension as we do not wish to delay the procurement process, but remain fully committed to our claim related to the Lot 3 process.”

The basis of Airwave’s case is that it believes that bidders for Lot 3 were not given equal treatment by the Home Office. The full shortlisted line up for Lot 3 was Airwave, EE, Telefonica O2, Vodafone and UK Broadband Networks. In February this year, Airwave, Vodafone and UK Broadband Networks were eliminated from the bidder, leaving Telefonica and EE to submit best and final offers. Telefonica pulled out of the bidding before submitting a BAFO in June, leaving EE to win the contract by default.

The Home Office issued a strong rebuttal to Airwave’s original writ and has said it will contest the challenge. It said that ‘it will also be seeking damages to protect it from any delay costs as a result of the challenge’, - a move that may perhaps now be obviated following Airwave’s decision.

In response to Airwave's move, Mike Penning, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice & Victims, said: "This is welcome news. This Government committed an additional £1 billion to overhaul the emergency services network in the Spending Review, and we are now clear to get on with the job of providing the faster, cheaper and smarter communications network that can meet the challenges of the future."

See also:

Airwave issues claim against the Home Office over ESN procurement process

Motorola Solutions buys UK emergency services comms provider Airwave

Airwave acquisition by Motorola a ‘very exciting prospect’, says CEO Richard Bobbett

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