Motorola facing competition inquiry over emergency services radio network

·3 min read

The UK competition watchdog is investigating Motorola’s UK emergency services network Airwave.

Bosses at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have launched the probe amid concerns that the telecoms company could be “cashing in” on its position, costing both customers and the taxpayer more than necessary.

Motorola bought Airwave – a mobile radio network used by all UK emergency services to communicate with one another – in February 2016.

The acquisition was cleared by the CMA, with the understanding that the Government would shut down the Airwave network by 2019, but this has now been delayed until the end of 2026.

In July, the regulator said it was consulting over whether to investigate the tech firm over worries about its dual role as both owner of Airwave and as a key supplier for its planned replacement.

On Monday, the CMA said that, after gathering initial evidence, it is concerned that “the market for the supply of the mobile radio network used by all emergency services in Great Britain might not be working well”.

It added that this may therefore be “resulting in a more expensive service for customers and, ultimately, the taxpayer”.

The watchdog highlighted worries that the Home Office has insufficient information for pricing negotiations, potentially placing it in a weak bargaining position.

The CMA also flagged concerns that Motorola’s dual role means it has an incentive to delay or shape the rollout of the new Energy Network Service (ESN) to its advantage.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “As the sole provider of critical mobile radio network services used by our emergency services, we’re concerned that Motorola could be cashing in on its position, leaving taxpayers to cover the cost.

“We’re now referring this market for a full investigation so that we can thoroughly examine these concerns and, if necessary, take action to address any problems.”

A Motorola Solutions spokeswoman said: “We strongly believe that a market investigation is not warranted.

“The Airwave service delivers exceptional value for money for the UK taxpayer.

“Motorola Solutions has provided price reductions even while making significant investments to maintain the network, which is relied upon by the UK emergency services every day and continues to function at the highest levels.

“We reject the assertion that we have an incentive to delay the implementation of the ESN.

“In fact, we continue to deliver on our commitments and invest heavily in the ESN programme and its launch remains our key priority for the benefit of public safety professionals and citizens across the country.

“We look forward to working with the CMA independent group to demonstrate that Motorola Solutions continues to provide exceptional value for the UK emergency services.”

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