Liesbeth Evers, Network News, and Ian Lynch, vnunet.com [27-07-2000]
should not have specified Tetra for police networks.
The future of a multi-billion pound police digital radio network,
Airwave, is in doubt after the European Commission said the Home
Office had unlawfully limited the contract to tenders that could
provide the terrestrial trunked radio (Tetra) standard.
The future of Airwave will be debated in a European court later this
year, although the Home Office may have the right to appeal or
conduct the tendering process again.
The Home Office had granted the £2.5bn Airwave contract to BT
Quadrant, but a commission spokesman said that this was against an EU
directive which states that public authorities are not allowed to
reject tenders on the grounds of a specific technical standard, and
that they must allow at least five tenders to ensure effective competition.
An EC spokesperson said that by forcing through Tetra technology the
Home Office had restricted the competition to three tenders that
could provide Tetra.
One of the companies that could have offered an alternative system
was Ram Mobile Data, which currently provides a data network to 26 of
the 50 police forces. This supports packet data transmission, a
technique that is used for sending large data file like vehicle
information and is not yet available in Tetra.
"We would have liked to make a competitive bid, but couldn't
because we use a different technology than Tetra. With a partnership
with a voice provider, I am sure we could have met the police's
requirements," said Adrian Noad, director of business
development at Ram Mobile Data."
Network News understands that senior police officers are relieved
that they may not have to pay huge sums of cash for a network that
has been branded as costly, slow and likely to be out of date by the
time it is installed.
Many are only involved in the programme because they would have to
pay for it even if they didn't use it, and because the Home Office
has sold their old radio frequencies during the recent 3G auction.
The government has been on the back foot about Tetra recently. Only
hours before the EC's announcement Jack Straw had announced that he
would make #500m available to relieve police concerns on funding.
At time of going to press, the Home Office had not decided how it was
going to deal with the EC's ruling, but the Office of the Government
Commerce said it was disappointed by the EC's decision.