The Home Office is still planning to award new emergency services radio network contracts this year despite the fact there is just one supplier in the running for two of the deals, after HP withdrew its bid this week.
The existing network is used by 300,000 different emergency services and public safety bodies across the UK, however it runs on ‘Tetra’ radio, an old technology poor at supporting mobile data.
The government hopes this will be solved by switching to a 4G LTE network, although a number of industry experts have warned the technology may not be ready to support mission critical voice communications, which require constant uptime.
The government plans to award three contracts: one for user services, one for mobile services and another to appoint a delivery partner.
HP’s decision comes just a month after Telefonica pulled out of the mobile services deal, leaving just one supplier left in the running for two of the three contracts: Motorola for user services and EE for mobile services. There are still four suppliers competing for the delivery partner contract.
An HP spokeswoman told ComputerworldUK the company had chosen to withdraw from the procurement process because it did not believe it could "submit a proposal that met the programme's requirements and timelines with a level of commercial and technical risk that was acceptable to all parties".
Despite the dwindling list of suppliers, the Home Office insisted it will still sign contracts later this year with emergency services expected to connect to the new network in 2016.
“There are six strong bidders competing for the main contracts. We have received their best and final offers and hope to sign contracts later this year,” a spokesman said.
However ComputerworldUK understands the department could reject offers if they believe they will not meet the needs of the emergency services or represent value for money, leaving the door open to a potential change in its plans.
The existing emergency services mobile network is operated by Airwave, which has said it is willing to help the Home Office with contract extensions until 2020.
All fire and rescue services have already agreed to continue to use the Airwave network until at least December 2019.
“In the long term we agree that LTE technology is the future of mission critical voice communications for the emergency services, but it is essential that the desire to adopt emerging technologies does nothing to compromise this country’s public safety, resilience and security,” Airwave said.