Watchdog opens investigation into emergency services radio network
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announces they will be investigating the Motorola Airwave network, the infrastructure and service provider that enables the police, fire and emergency services to communicate securely with each other.
The decision to launch a market investigation follows a consultation, opened in July 2021, which set out concerns about the impact of the dual role of Motorola as the owner of the company providing the current mobile radio network (Airwave Solutions) and as a key supplier in the roll-out of the planned new Emergency Services Network (ESN).
After the CMA considered the evidence gathered and reviewed the responses to this consultation, an independent group will now investigate and decide if there are problems, and if so, put in place appropriate solutions.
The CMA is concerned that the market for the supply of the mobile radio network used by all emergency services in Great Britain might not be working well, resulting in a more expensive service for customers and, ultimately, the taxpayer.
One of the main concerns and a key focus of the investigation is the insufficient information being provided to the Home Office in negotiations on the pricing of the Airwave network. This puts the department in a weak bargaining position and blurs value for money.
The watchdog will also examine Motorola’s dual role, and a supposed incentive to delay or shape the roll-out of the ESN to its advantage.
Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: “As the sole provider of critical mobile radio network services used by our emergency services, we’re concerned that Motorola could be cashing in on its position, leaving taxpayers to cover the cost.”
However, a spokesperson from Motorola Solutions said: “We strongly believe that a market investigation is not warranted. We have provided financial transparency throughout this project, including audited, statutory financial statements, detailed reviews of CAPEX and spend, and financial plans for the Airwave network.”
Not only do they claim to have provided “exceptional value for money for the U.K. taxpayer”, but they also state they have provided price reductions rather than price hikes.
“We reject the assertion that we have an incentive to delay the implementation of the ESN. In fact, we continue to deliver on our commitments and invest heavily in the ESN programme and its launch remains our key priority for the benefit of public safety professionals and citizens across the country. This is a contractual matter between the Home Office and Motorola Solutions and this investigation threatens the principles of long-term government contracting in the U.K.”