Airwave, the incumbent emergency services communications supplier, has reportedly cleared the way for the Home Office to move forward with the upgrade its emergency services network. While its damages claim still stands, Airwave has dropped its opposition to the Home Office’s application for lifting of the automatic suspension of the contract under Regulation 95(1) of the Public Contracts Regulations (“PCR”) 2015 (formerly Regulation 47G of the PCR 2006).
In November 2015, Airwave launched a challenge of the Home Office’s procurement process for Lot 3 (mobile services) of the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) following the announcement of the contract award to EE. The challenge triggered the automatic suspension under the PCR 2015. Airwave’s challenge is based on a claim that bidders did not receive equal treatment in the procurement process. The Home Office issued a counterclaim for damages incurred as a result of the delay caused by Airwave’s challenge.
The new contract aims to replace Airwave’s purpose-built, two-way radio network used by the police, fire and ambulance services with a 4G broadband voice and data network. Airwave’s bid was rejected in February and the remaining rival bidder, O2, dropped out of the process due to uncertainty over its future ownership structure. Hutchison Whampoa’s acquisition of O2 is currently the subject of a European Commission Phase II merger investigation and there are concerns that it may be forced to sell radio spectrum in order to obtain clearance.