back to article UK regulator proposes price cap on Motorola as supplier of Airwave network

The UK's competition watchdog is proposing price controls on Motorola's role in running a controversial communications network for emergency services. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has put forward plans to cap the global telecoms giant's fees on the existing Airwave network while the severely delayed replacement …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ESN standards, just like web standards

    Worked for a company integrating Motorola's ESN into our main product. It's all meant to be based on an international standard, so Motorola could, in principle, be replaced by another provider. The reality, like web standards, is there is ambiguity in implementations of the standard which will make it impossible to change providers without a huge amount of development and testing.

    The other part is that Motorola's functionality is incredibly flakey and unreliable, at least when I was working with it. There is no reason to believe it has improved.

    AC for obvious reasons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ESN standards, just like web standards

      Well if it doesn't work then use the relevant contractual clause to take action.

      It seems more to me that the government has screwed up again and is now trying to save face by 'stealing' money back from their chosen supplier. While I'm no fan of Motorola I think it is damaging for the governments position to mess around like this.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ESN standards, just like web standards

      The delays in the new 4G system are unfortunate.

      At least European customers use public safety systems based on newer standards than many U.S. customers do for public safety systems. The Astro system used by most U.S. public safety customers is based on older standards, and doesn't have the data capabilities that the European systems do. Even the Airwave system that is being phased out is based on newer standards than the Astro systems. ( That was the case in 2014 - I assume it is still the case today ).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And in other news IR35 is back.

    1% back on, so support your on payroll colleagues and pay your tax.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: And in other news IR35 is back.

      Well done for posting such a relevant and nuanced comment. You must be so proud.

      [slow clap]

  3. localzuk Silver badge

    So what happens if...

    Motorola decides "eh, we're not making profit enough now, let's cancel the contract"? If the govt can go forcing new terms on the supplier, can the supplier not simply back out of the contract?

    Surely the answer here is that the government need to stop using monopolies for their major projects?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So what happens if...

      The problem is that Motorola had the monopoly on the old Airwaves network but should have been closed down by now. ESN is a consortium, which Motorola had a stake in, but they have been buying up competitors and now that stake has become a major stake, so they have effectively a near monopoly in the new network as well.

      1. localzuk Silver badge

        Re: So what happens if...

        So, what you're saying is, our competition watchdog hasn't been doing its job very well, and the contract writers for the new system left some holes in it which allowed for them to do this?

        If the law/rules allow things to happen, it isn't the company's fault for doing it. Its the government's fault for allowing it.

        1. teebie

          Re: So what happens if...

          "our competition watchdog hasn't been doing its job very well"

          That depends on whether their job is to prevent monopolies (which they haven't done in this case), or to ensure that is there is a monopoly then it does no harm (which it is trying to do here - arguably too late)

          Looking at I'm not sure which they are supposed to focus on

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: So what happens if...

      Given that there is basically only one customer for Emergency Services Networks - as other potential customers like Coast Guard, Air Traffic Control, and railways would have different technical requirements, and having multiple Emergency Services Networks wouldn't really work, how do you avoid having a monopoly?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AC for obvious...

    But there are a lot of real PITA things I find with Airwave when you rely on it and some really odd limitations.

    HOWEVER - it works almost everywhere. Certainly more places than I can get any form of signal on my work phone... So I'm not hugely optimistic about how well I'll get on with ESN if/when it arrives given that it relies on cellular only as far as I understand it (and that most of my patch is rural but in areas dead against any form of antenna because it'll give the lizard-people more direct control)

    1. msknight

      There has been a separate project for more than a year now, to identify key black spot areas and boost signal in those areas, but also accounting for power outage scenarios as well; so not just "do we need another tower here" but also, "How long does this new tower need to survive a power outage" etc.

  5. Potemkine! Silver badge

    If that system is vital for the customer, I don't see how the customer can force the monopolistic supplier to lower the price of the service. Sounds like magical thinking.

    == Bring us Dabbsy back! ==

  6. Velv

    Prolonging the Problem

    Looks like Motorola have taken the piss above and beyond even the best expectations of a Tory.

    If you're not part of the solution there's money to be made prolonging the problem.

    Turns out if you are part of the solution there's still money to be made prolonging the problem.

  7. Vadiba

    Blaming the provider

    It's a bit rich that Gov are saying this, where in reality the blame is totally with the Government. You can't blame Motorola for this as the Government knew the issues in the contract in the late 90's for Airwave and in 2014 for ESN. They were warned so many times by those in the profession, but the decision was forced through by those who thought they knew best in 2011. It's a prime example of how not to roll out a project like this, but then again, it's made many a consultant very rich!

  8. Vadiba

    Out of date technology

    By the time ESN is available, it'll be out of date and need replacing along with all the control room infrastructure used by the emergency services. They should have purchased and retained Airwave for all critical comms, and taken advantage of the latest technology for 5G encrypted data. Not that they weren't told 8 years ago!

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