Motorola Solutions has filed a formal protest against a decision by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City to award PowerTrunk with a contract to build a TETRA radio network for the MTA bus system that would operate on 700 MHz public-safety spectrum.

Awarded last month, the MTA radio contract for the bus system was awarded to Parsons Transportation Group of NY and PowerTrunk, which developed the TETRA radio solution. Motorola Solutions filed its protest last week, claiming that its bid was $35 million less than the winning proposal and that it is illegal to deploy TETRA in the 700 MHz band.

“Motorola Solutions has formally protested the MTA's award, as our bid would save the authority $35 million,” Motorola said in a statement today. “We look forward to a fair hearing about the numerous issues we have raised about the process, concerns about interoperability of the proposed system with other public safety agencies and the suitability of the proposed radios.

“Improving transit safety through reliable and proven communications technology is a priority, and these issues must be resolved, so MTA employees, riders and New York taxpayers can be assured of the safety and efficiency of their transit-system communications.” 

IWCE’s Urgent Communications contacted MTA officials by phone and e-mail in an effort to get the transit authority’s perspective on the matter, but those communications were not returned in time to be included in this article.

In a Feb. 21 letter to the MTA Finance Committee, Motorola Solutions outlined the reasons for its protest.

“Although NYCT [New York City Transit/MTA] argues that the reason [Motorola Solutions was not chosen as the vendor] was that we did not have a type-accepted radio, the type acceptance is wholly irrelevant,” the letter states. “Regardless of type acceptance, the FCC has expressly stated they will not allow [TETRA] deployment in 700 MHz.

“The MTA steered this award to the vendor with Type Acceptance in an attempt to avoid the lengthy process involved in clarification on the matter (Build it and ask for forgiveness later).  It is unimaginable that the MTA would spend this kind of capital on a multi-year procurement and lack the approval to execute the system.”

TETRA is the public-safety LMR standard in Europe and many other parts of the world, but not in the United States, where P25 is the public-safety radio standard. The FCC has approved TETRA for use in the U.S., but not on public-safety spectrum—a fact that Motorola Solutions cited in its letter, quoting the FCC’s report and order of Sept. 19, 2012.

“With respect to the 700 MHz narrowband spectrum, the Commission’s rules require that 700 MHz narrowband radios use Project 25 Phase I technology on the 700 MHz narrowband interoperability channels, and there is no indication in the record that TETRA equipment would conform to this standard,” the 2012 FCC order states. “In addition, we note that the petitioner did not request that TETRA operation be authorized in the 700 MHz band. Accordingly, we do not consider the 700 MHz narrowband spectrum to be a candidate for TETRA operation.”

PowerTrunk, which was purchased by the Sepura Group last year, was selected by New Jersey Transit to deploy TETRA radio networks to replace Motorola Solutions’ networks. However, that transition has not happened, even through the TETRA project was completed in 2014, according to the letter from Motorola Solutions.