U.K.’s Public-Safety Broadband Tender Moves Forward with 8 Bidders
Monday, March 02, 2015 | Comments

Eight organizations will move to the next stage of bidding to run the Emergency Services Network (ESN) under tender in the United Kingdom. ESN is a planned public-safety commercial broadband network set to replace the country’s private TETRA network.

The eight companies, a reduction from an original 15, will begin a negotiation stage for the three lots of the contract. The main part of the contract, Lot 3, which will provide a resilient mobile services network for the police, fire, and rescue and ambulance services, includes EE and Telefónica going forward to the negotiation stage. EE and Telefónica operate commercial mobile networks in the United Kingdom.

Airwave Solutions, UK Broadband Networks and Vodafone are no longer in the running for Lot 3 of the contract. Airwave Solutions operates the current TETRA private system used by the country’s public-safety officials.

KPMG is no longer in the running for Lot 1, the delivery partner, for the contract. Airwave, Astrium and CGI IT UK are out of the running for Lot 2, the user services.

With evaluation of bids complete, James Brokenshire, U.K. minister for security and immigration, said a competitive Lot 3 has produced impressive technical and cost-effective bids.

“It is clear that the procurement process for the new ESN has delivered bids from the mobile industry which are beyond our initial expectations,” Brokenshire said. “Not only do they match the operational requirements set by the emergency services but also offer the prospect of significant cost savings for the taxpayer over the existing system.”

A statement said the competition for the contracts is leading to the Home Office goals: an enhanced, flexible and more affordable communications system for the emergency services. The Home Office said the new network will save about £1 billion (US$1.5 billion) during the next 15 years.

“I am confident the organizations we have invited to the next stage will create a communications network that is the best in the world,” Brokenshire said.

However, many professional mobile radio (PMR) experts said a commercial network can’t serve the coverage, reliability and other critical needs of public-safety users. “No other European country is currently considering this total approach,” said Phil Kidner, CEO of the TETRA + Critical Communications Association (TCCA). “Some of the other early adopters of TETRA are instead updating their current critical communications networks with the latest versions of that technology and are looking to add broadband data from non-critical public networks where required.”

Organizations going forward to negotiation include: • Lot 1 (delivery partner): Atkins, Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), Lockheed Martin and Mott MacDonald. The delivery partner will provide transition support, cross-lot integration and user support; program management services for cross-lot ESN integration; program management services for transition; training support services; test assurance for cross-lot integration; and vehicle installation design and assurance.

• Lot 2 (user services): Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. This technical service integrator will provide end-to-end systems integration for the ESN; public-safety communications services including the development and operation of public-safety applications; necessary telecommunications infrastructure; user device management; customer support; and service management.

• Lot 3 (mobile services): EE and Telefónica. A network operator will provide an enhanced mobile communications service with highly available full coverage in the defined Lot 3 area in Great Britain, along with extension services to offer coverage beyond the Lot 3 network.

The Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) is a Home Office-led, cross-departmental program set up to provide less expensive communications services for emergency services with commercial broadband networks. The contracts for the existing emergency services systems provided by Airwave Solutions will begin to expire in September 2016. A replacement service is necessary, and re-competition is legally required by the expiry in 2020 of the existing contracts.

In addition to the emergency services, more than 300 other organizations, called sharers, are active users of the current TETRA service. ESMCP is working with them to optimize their transition to ESN, enabling them to benefit from economies of scale and maintain existing interoperability arrangements. A statement said the country’s three emergency services (3ES) — police, fire and ambulance — have representation in the program governance structure, which also includes representatives from the Cabinet Office and Welsh and Scottish governments.

The ESMCP contract tender launched in April 2014. Potential suppliers were asked to respond to a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ). An invitation to tender was issued last summer, and tenders were returned in the third quarter of last year. Five suppliers originally were selected to progress to the invitation to tender (ITT) stage in each of four lots. However, Lot 4, extension services, was later combined with Lot 3.

There are several related procurements in addition to the three lots. The device project is seeking to provide user devices and accessories for inclusion in an ESN device catalog. The framework and initial set of approved user devices will be delivered by this project. However, the online catalog will be procured and hosted as part of the user services (Lot 2) procurement.

The vehicle communications replacement project is seeking to provide a mechanism for the removal of legacy equipment and the installation of user devices and accessories into vehicles belonging to the emergency services. More than 45,000 user organization vehicles are in operational service across Great Britain.

The air to ground (A2G) project will provide a national A2G radio communications service for emergency services and other non-emergency responder organizations.

ESMCP is also looking to engage the market on control room upgrades as part of the ongoing transition work for ESN. The control room upgrades and inter-working project will ensure that control room users have full access to ESN. At this time ESMCP envisages that these upgrades will be procured locally by 3ES or their sponsoring departments/devolved departments.

“Our long-term plan for the economy means we are opening up government business and creating an environment where strong competition can flourish,” said Francis Maude, minister of the Cabinet Office. “We want our emergency services to have access to world-leading mobile broadband communications and modern networks and tools, so they can deliver vital public services at significantly less cost to the taxpayer.”

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