Updated: Motorola Solutions ‘chomping at the bit’ to complete contract worth more than $600 million for statewide Florida system that needs to be operational in June 2021
[Editor’s note: This story was updated on Friday evening to include additional information from Motorola Solutions about the following items: Florida state agencies will have to pay for the P25 radios for their personnel that use the system, and that a P25 radio from any vendor could work on the proposed statewide system. Earlier in the day, IWCE’s Urgent Communications corrected the length of time until the June 2021 target deadline, which is less than 26 months.]
Florida’s legislature recently approved a budget that authorized state officials to negotiate a contract worth as much as $687.8 million with Motorola Solutions to build a statewide P25 network during the next two years, but key issues need to be resolved before deployment can begin, according to a Motorola Solutions official.
Last year, an administrative law judge dismissed a protest from Harris—the incumbent vendor for Florida’s existing statewide law-enforcement radio system (SLERS) but a losing bidder for the P25 system—upholding the award to Motorola Solutions. Motorola Solutions proposal to build a 144-site, 700/800 MHz P25 Phase 2 system was about $300 million less than the Harris bid to build a 190-site P25 network for the state.
“There was language included in the state legislature’s budget that did authorize the Department of Management Services to execute a contract with Motorola Solutions,” Scott Adler, Motorola Solutions’ vice president and general manager for the state and local market in the southeast region, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We’re very, very excited about that opportunity. We’ve been working on this deal for a few years and are ready to take it to the next point.”
Motorola Solutions plans build, own and operate the proposed statewide P25 network. Although Adler said that about 14,000 radios would be provided to state personnel as part of Motorola Solutions’ SLERS bid, a Motorola spokesperson later clarified that state agencies would have to pay for these radios. However, Florida state agencies would not have pay a subscription fee to have these employees access the P25 network.
Local public-safety agencies in Florida also are expected to have the option of using the proposed P25 SLERS, but the expectation is that the local agencies would pay a subscription fee and have to purchase their own radios, Adler said.
A Motorola spokesperson today clarified to IWCE’s Urgent Communications that any P25 radio could work on the proposed SLERS system. Adler said which radios actually would be used is yet to be determined.
“It’s something that has be negotiated,” Adler said. “It’s our intent that we show the state and additional users the value of the Motorola device and that they would select Motorola to be that provider.”
A key stipulation in the Florida procurement was that the new P25 network must be operational by the end of June 2021, which is when the current SLERS contract with Harris is scheduled to expire. Adler said the procurement called for the winning bidder to deploy the statewide system within 48 months, something Motorola Solutions is prepared to do.
But “70-plus sites” in the Motorola Solutions’ network proposal require the construction of new towers, which require more time to implement than sites on existing towers, Adler said. Another 21 sites are existing SLERS sites and are owned by Harris, which has indicated that it does not intend to let another vendor on its towers—a matter that is the subject of ongoing litigation.
With less than 26 months until the June 2021 deadline, getting a contract signed in the near future would be very helpful to Motorola Solutions, according to Adler
“The state, as part of its specification, outlined the need to have the system built in 48 months,” Adler said. “We certainly conformed to that specification. Our desire is that we would find a way to accelerate that.
“Obviously, this is one of the reasons why we are chomping at the bit to get going, because we know that the state has some timelines that are important to them. Anything that we can do to accelerate the construction of and the deployment of our network is really in all parties—the state and Motorola—best interest. So, we’re going to do everything we can to deliver the network in less than 48 months.”
With this in mind, Motorola Solutions is making preparations to ensure that the company can move quickly when given permission to begin deployment of the P25 SLERS, but there is are limitations to the actions that can be taken until a contract is finalized, Adler said.
“We are doing everything in our power to prepare for final negotiations and the execution of our contract right now,” he said. “In terms of any hard costs—in terms of permitting or materials—obviously, that would be something that we would not be doing until we have an executed contract with the state.
“We are doing everything in our power to accelerate … and deliver this system in less than 48 months. We’ve got a cadre of resources focused on the state of Florida that are working on anything and everything that we can … to make sure that, when we execute this contract, we are hitting the ground running.”
But executing this contract could be more challenging than is typically the case. In particular, the Motorola Solutions bid implies an agreement to a “Termination for Convenience” clause in the prospective contract—a stipulation that initially caused Harris to express reservations about the new SLERS initiative.
“This provision authorizes the Department the right to terminate the SLERS contract for any reason, or no reason whatsoever,” according to last year’s protest ruling by Administrative Law Judge Bruce Culpepper. “One example of how the Department might cancel the contract “for convenience” would be if the Legislature determined that the state no longer needed, or wanted, the SLERS. The Termination for Convenience clause would allow the Department to terminate its agreement without incurring any financial obligation.”
Several industry sources have said that such language would be difficult for any vendor to approve, especially because Motorola Solutions would have to make significant upfront investments to make the statewide P25 system a reality.
Other sources have noted that such language might have been acceptable in the past, when there was general agreement that mission-critical voice for public safety could only be delivered through an LMR system. But there is less certainty today about that notion today, as AT&T has announced plans to provide FirstNet subscribers with mission-critical-push-to-talk (MCPTT) services from multiple vendors later this year.
MCPTT is unproven today, but many believe MCPTT could be a viable alternative to P25 during the next few years, particularly in locations where reliable 4G or 5G coverage is available.
Adler acknowledged that the “Termination for Convenience” language will be a discussion point as Motorola Solutions seeks to reach a final contract agreement with the state of Florida.
“That’s certainly an item on our radar screen that we’ve been discussing with the state and would expect to continue to address throughout the course of our negotiations,” Adler said.
Some observers wondered whether funding could be an issue, because the Florida legislature did not identify a new funding source for the proposed P25 network, which is expected to be more costly than the existing SLERS that uses proprietary EDACS technology from Harris.
Adler expressed confidence that the state of Florida will provide the funding necessary for the statewide project, which Motorola Solutions bid as a 25-year deal.
“Our expectation is that the state—through its funding source—and Motorola—through the payment streams that we have articulated throughout the proposal—will synchronize, and we’ll be in good shape,” Adler said. “Our expectation is that what we’re asking the state to provide in return for our services and what they will have available will align.”