Florida, Motorola Solutions fail to reach statewide P25 deal as Dec. 31 deadline passes
Motorola Solutions and the state of Florida Department of Management Services (DMS) did not meet the DMS-imposed deadline of Dec. 31 to finalize a $687.8 million contract that would have Motorola Solutions build a statewide Project 25 (P25) network, but it is unclear what next steps are being taken by the state.
On Dec. 23, Florida DMS Secretary Jonathan Satter sent a letter to Motorola Solutions CEO Greg Brown that called on Motorola Solutions to sign by Dec. 31 a contract to upgrade Florida’s Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) to the P25 standard. If a deal was not finalized by the Dec. 31 deadline, the state of Florida would “move forward with the evaluation of other options to procure a next-generation system,” according to Satter’s letter.
Florida DMS confirmed today that a contract agreement for the P25 SLERS project is not in place.
“We do not yet have a signed contract,” a DMS spokesperson stated this morning in an e-mail response to multiple inquiries from IWCE’s Urgent Communications during the past week.
No other details were provided. IWCE’s Urgent Communications asked whether the state was pursuing other options—as Satter said it would in his Dec. 23 letter—or still negotiating with Motorola Solutions, but DMS did not provide a response in time to be included in this article.
At issue is the fate of the SLERS P25 project, which is by far the largest land-mobile-radio (LMR) deal pending in North America. The statewide P25 system from Motorola Solutions is supposed to replace the current SLERS system, a statewide LMR network using aging EDACS technology that is owned and maintained by L3Harris.
When the P25 project was bid, the winning contractor was supposed to have four years to build the new SLERS system by the end of June 2021, when the current SLERS contract with L3Harris expires. Even if a contract agreement could be signed this week, Motorola Solutions would have less than 18 months to complete the 144-site statewide P25 network by the June 2021 deadline.
Satter’s Dec. 23 letter marked the second time in 11 days that Satter has written to Brown about Motorola Solutions’ $687.8 million bid—about $300 million less than the bid submitted by L3Harris (then known as Harris)—to upgrade Florida’s Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) to the P25 standard.
In a Dec. 12 letter to Brown, Satter indicated that Motorola Solutions had not been willing to accept the terms of its bid in contract negotiations. One key condition that all vendors seeking the P25 contract were required to accept was a “termination for convenience” clause, which would let the state to back out of the potential 20-year deal whenever it wanted with little advance notice.
“Pursuant to the authority granted to the Department by the Florida Legislature during the 2019 legislative session, the Department [DMS] is authorized to enter into the contract with Motorola,” Satter states in the Dec. 12 letter. “To date, Motorola has consistently expressed a desire to modify substantive terms negotiated during the competitive procurement and agreed to by Motorola in its BAFO [best and final offer], including termination for convenience. Moreover, Motorola has represented to Department personnel that those terms are ‘deal breakers.’
“The Department will enter into a contract with Motorola that includes all substantive terms and conditions negotiated during the competitive procurement. The Department is requesting that Motorola work toward the finalization of a contract for execution by Friday, December 20, 2019, so that the Department and the state of Florida can move forward with the new System.
“If the Department and Motorola are unable to finalize and execute a contract by the date above, the Department will move forward with the evaluation of other options to procure a next-generation system.”
That Dec. 20 deadline was extended to Dec. 31, based on Satter’s Dec. 23 letter to Brown.
Florida DMS included a “termination for convenience” language in its procurement documents, making acceptance of the language a condition of a qualified bid. Motorola Solutions representatives were reminded of the condition last year, when Administrative Law Judge Bruce Culpepper recommended dismissal of a procurement protest by Harris in favor of the Motorola Solutions bid.
“This [termination-for-convenience] provision authorizes the Department [DMS] the right to terminate the SLERS contract for any reason, or no reason whatsoever,” according to Culpepper’s opinion. “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.”
Exactly what the state of Florida will do next is uncertain. Extending the current SLERS deal with L3Harris would appear to be one consideration, even if a deal with Motorola Solutions can be reached. However, it is unclear how long the state of Florida would be comfortable having first responders continue to use the older EDACS technology and how long L3Harris would be willing to support a such a system.
Florida DMS did not respond to inquiries from IWCE’s Urgent Communications seeking clarification about the technology that would be used in the “next-generation system” that Satter’s letter indicated the state would procure if a contract for the proposed SLERS P25 system was not completed by Dec. 31.
While P25 is considered to be the LMR standard for public-safety communications in North America, the technology is not new, as the technology’s roots can be traced back to an APCO project that was initiated in the late 1980s. In contrast, LTE-based technologies like push-to-talk-over-cellular (PoC) services and mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT)—the 3GPP standard that is supposed to be available to FirstNet users by the end of March—are much newer, but they are unproven in mission-critical, public-safety scenarios.