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Motorola Solutions completes £700m acquisition of Airwave

Acquisition of the UK’s emergency services TETRA radio network operator will expand Motorola’s managed and support services business

Motorola Solutions completes £700m acquisition of Airwave

Motorola Solutions announced that it has completed its acquisition of Airwave, the operator of the UK’s public safety TETRA two-way radio network, today (19 February 2016). Motorola first announced it was to buy Airwave on 4 December 2015.

Greg Brown, chairman and CEO of Motorola Solutions, said: “The acquisition of Airwave enables us to significantly grow our managed and support services business and reflects our commitment to the public safety users in Great Britain.

“The combination of our years of experience as a trusted global leader in mission-critical communications and Airwave’s proven service delivery platform will provide Great Britain with innovative emergency services technology that enhances public safety today and into the future.”

Airwave delivers mission-critical voice and data communications to more than 300 emergency and public service agencies in Great Britain, including police, fire, rescue and ambulance services. Motorola Solutions has been providing communications to the emergency services community in the UK for more than 45 years.

Recently, the UK Home Office awarded Motorola Solutions a long-term contract for the user services (Lot 2) for the Emergency Services Network (ESN), the future public safety network based on cellular long-term evolution (LTE) technology.

Motorola Solutions said that it purchased Airwave on a debt-free basis with a net cash payment of approximately £700 million (approximately $1 billion) at closing. In addition, a deferred cash payment of £64 million (approximately $90 million) will be made in November 2018.

Motorola Solutions expects that the acquisition will be immediately accretive to its non-GAAP earnings and free cash flow. The company intends to incorporate Airwave into its 2016 financial outlook, which will be described in more detail during the company’s quarterly conference call with financial analysts at 4pm CST (5pm EST) on Monday 22 February 2016.

The acquisition is generally seen as a good move for Airwave and its staff, as the company faced a problematic future once the last of its contracts with UK fire, police and ambulance services end in early 2020.

Just what Motorola will do with Airwave remains to be seen post-2020, or even before. It will lose some of its spectrum at that point, so will it look to access more – perhaps 700MHz when that comes up for auction post-2020? What plans might it have for the radio towers it owns?

It might use its network to run services for third parties. Or, it could, for example, offer a national Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) network for business radio users, or indeed, emergency services, some of whom still use VHS radios despite having access to the Airwave TETRA radio network.

The Internet of Things might offer other opportunities for both transmission of data or for backhauling it. Along with developing a consultation business, Airwave has already won some telecommunications maintenance contracts.

In the meantime, Airwave staff will provide a wealth of expertise in operating critical communications networks. This will undoubtedly benefit Motorola in its role on the UK’s new Emergency Services Network, which will run on EE’s network, and is due to go live in mid-2017. That expertise can also be exported for other network operation contracts that may come up elsewhere in the future.


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