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Home Office awards £200m ADB agreement to support ESN

Neil Merrett Published 25 November 2016

Five suppliers take places on new framework designed to undertake a series of competitions to implement, construct and manage passive infrastructure requirements for ESMCP


The Home Office has awarded a £200m valued framework agreement to design, develop and support key infrastructure that will underpin the Emergency Services Network (ESN).

In total, five suppliers have been awarded places on the Acquire, Design and Build (ADB) agreement.  This will be used to procure a number of functions including the acquisition and management of greenfield sites on which to build “passive infrastructure” such as radio and transmission bases and masts.

ESN is the government’s chosen option to replace the existing Airwave service used by key responders as part of a procurement exercise currently broken up into three separate lots.  The network is intended to serve as an interoperable communication service that will make use of the existing commercial 4G network to try and save costs as part of a service overhaul in the form of the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme (ESMCP) launched in 2011.

The award of the ADB framework represents a wider focus as part of ESMCP to provide additional products and services within dispersed geographical areas to ensure ESN can be more effectively delivered nationwide.

Out of nine tenders received by the Home Office, the suppliers awarded places on the framework include Ericsson, Obelisk Communications and Lend Lease Construction. Clarke Telecom and Daly International are also included.

“The Framework Agreement has been awarded to 5 suitably experienced and capable suppliers that are able to provide ADB products, works and services in support of ESN within the UK,” said the award notice.

All five of the suppliers awarded places on the agreement will now be invited to take part in a series of competitions that will include negotiating lease arrangements with landowners and finalising planning arrangement for infrastructure builds including mobile masts.

Others exercises are supposed to include tenders for managing power connectivity, testing services and civil construction activity that may be required for commissioning sites.

Earlier this month, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told that the proposed timeline to introduce ESN was likely to slip further beyond its intended switchover target of late 2019.  This additional time was anticipated by some intended service users to be needed to allow for system testing and the assurance of data devices.

In a committee session focused on emergency services communications, PAC chair Meg Hillier heard a number of concerns from two prominent users of the technology that about ensuring the likelihood of the network being available on time as planned, as well as addressing technology issues.

“On a technology side, there is a big issue with getting [telecoms provider] EE’s coverage up from its current 70%, although they said it was 74% today, to 97% by next September, less than a year’s time,” she said at the time.

Taking questions from the PAC, Home Office permanent secretary Mark Sedwill said he accepted the National Audit Office  (NAO) view that the that ESMCP was a “high risk programme”.

However, he argued that the approach was seen as the right solution for overhauling the data sharing and communication needs of UK emergency services based on a Home Office review of the cost, capability and risk.

Related articles:

PAC told ESN switchover date likely to slip further

PAC’s ESN probe likely to consider mobile operators’ access to network sites

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