Ofcom Cites Motorola, Sepura Over Competition Law

British communications regulator Ofcom has provisionally found Motorola and Sepura broke competition law during a procurement exercise run by Police ICT Company in 2018.

Ofcom’s investigation provisionally found that both parties allegedly infringed competition law “by exchanging competitively sensitive information relating to future pricing intentions in connection with a procurement exercise run by the Police ICT company in 2018.”

The procurement contract was for the continued operation of Airwave, the existing Emergency Services Network (ESN). Airwave Solutions was acquired by Motorola Solutions in December 2015.

Statement of Objections

At the moment, British emergency services (police, fire, ambulances etc.) communicate via the Motorola-owned Airwave network.

Airwave utilises Motorola’s TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) network technology.

However TETRA was supposed to be retired because whilst it provided geographically comprehensive voice coverage that allows more than 300,000 police, fire, ambulance and other emergency personnel in the UK to securely communicate with each other, its data capabilities can be very slow.

This led the British government in 2014 to decide to replace it with a more modern 4G-based alternative, known as the emergency services network (ESN).

Samsung Electronics in 2017 was awarded a £210m contract by the Home Office to supply smartphones and all related technology for the UK’s ESN.

But the arrival of ESN has been delayed and costs are overunning, and so it has been necessary to keep the Airwave network running for several years longer than planned.

This resulted in the Police ICT Company, running a procurement exercise in 2018 to obtain more TETRA devices, accessories and services.

Competition violation?

Sepura is a Cambridge, UK specialist in emergency services communications, and it provides some of the handsets and equipment for use with the Airwave network.

It therefore was bidding for the Police ICT company contract, along with another potential supplier, namely Motorola Solutions.

But Ofcom, in its Statement of Objections, alleges that both Motorola and Sepura “participated in a concerted practice that had the object of preventing, restricting or distorting competition in the supply of TETRA devices, accessories and related services for use on the Airwave network in Great Britain.”

Ofcom has allowed both parties to make representations to the regulator, which will be carefully considered before it takes a final decision.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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