News story

Emergency services network contract removed

Industry commitment to improve poor mobile signal areas negates need for fourth contract.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


Industry-promised significant improvements in areas with poor mobile signal mean plans for a national ‘extension to mobile services’ contract are redundant in their current form, the Home Office said today.

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, 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.

Quality of bids

Minister for Policing 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.

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 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.

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.

Cheaper, better and smarter

The Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) is a Home Office led, cross-departmental programme set up to provide cheaper, better and smarter communications services for the emergency services, called the Emergency Services Network (ESN).

The contracts for the existing emergency services systems provided by Airwave Solutions Ltd 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.

To deliver broadband data services, on which the emergency services increasingly rely, we expect to enhance a commercial mobile network with additional coverage, resilience and security; this will rely on commercial spectrum and priority access. As there is no spectrum available to the emergency services it is not currently possible or thought affordable to procure another private network.

Published 14 January 2015