More than a year after winning a hotly contested bid to establish an emergency radio network throughout the state of New York, M/A-COM officials yesterday received word to proceed with the project.

Believed to be the largest land mobile radio (LMR) deal in the U.S., New York state contracted to pay M/A-COM $2.005 billion over 20 years from funds collected through the state’s wireless-communications service surcharge. M/A-COM will be responsible for building, operating and maintaining the statewide wireless network (SWN) that is expected to enhance coverage, functionality and interoperability for public-safety communications.

The announcement is a major coup for M/A-COM, which was selected as the prime contractor for the project in April 2004. New York state spokesman Rob Roddy said the fact that it has taken 17 months for the state to give M/A-COM orders to proceed should not be interpreted as a negative reflection on the vendor.

“No, not at all,” Roddy said. “The size of the contract and the importance of the public-safety radio network dictated that everyone wanted to take their time with it.”

John Vaughan, vice president and general manager of M/A-COM’s wireless systems business, said company officials would have preferred receiving the go-ahead orders earlier but were “comfortable” with the review process.

“We certainly knew from the beginning that it was going to be a very thorough process,” Vaughan said. “It’s actually a good feeling to know that we got the win when there was such thorough due diligence done on our bid.”

M/A-COM was selected as the prime contractor after being judged to have the “most technically and financially superior plan,” according to a state press release. Multiple news reports indicated that M/A-COM’s bid was less than half the cost of the proposal made by industry giant Motorola.

The fundamental difference was that Motorola effectively proposed building an entirely new network while the M/A-COM bid called for the state to leverage a great deal of infrastructure from existing radio networks linked by an IP backbone, Vaughan said. The SWN will include new P25 VHF radios and new OpenSky systems operating at 700 MHz and 800 MHz. It also will support interconnections with legacy systems in the state.

“It’s one network, but it’s more than one air interface, more than one frequency and more than one technology,” Vaughan said. “Those protocols are not tied together at the air-interface level but at the network level.”

The first phase of the deployment will include Erie and Chautauqua counties, according to the state press release. This initial deployment will serve as a test-bed to determine the performance, compatibility and interoperability of the various existing radio systems.

If M/A-COM’s initial phase meets the state’s performance criteria, the vendor will be allowed to expand the network in phases throughout the state, Vaughan said. The state will not pay M/A-COM for any phase until it passes the performance-testing standard.

Vaughan said this contract language is “pretty unique” but acknowledged that he understands the state’s logic.

“What they’re saying is, ‘We not going to pay for any piece until it’s done and has been tested,’” Vaughan said. “They’re buying the whole pizza, but they’re paying for it one piece at a time.”

The first significant radio upgrade for most of New York state in 30 years, SWN is scheduled for completion in 2010.