Florida formally notifies L3Harris of intent to extend statewide LMR contract
A letter from the state of Florida this week formally notified L3Harris of the state’s intent to renew the service agreement for the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) when the existing contract between the parties expires in a little more than a year.
“The State of Florida, acting by and through the Department of Management Services [DMS] and the Division of State Technology, is presenting this letter as notification of its intent to renew this service agreement,” according to a letter from the state to L3Harris that was released to IWCE’s Urgent Communications this afternoon.
Under the SLERS contract signed in 2000 between the state of Florida and Com-Net Ericsson Critical Radio Systems—a company now known as L3Harris, after several name changes—the state of Florida is required to notify L3Harris at least a year before the agreement expires whether it intends to extend the service agreement. The existing SLERS service agreement is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2021.
“We are happy to continue working with the state,” an L3Harris spokesperson said in a statement to IWCE’s Urgent Communications when asked about the matter.
Such notification for an extension was not a surprise, as Florida DMS officials have acknowledged the need in recent months, including last month during a board meeting of the Florida Joint Task Force—the state entity that provides advice about SLERS.
“We continue working with our current vendor, Harris [L3Harris], on renewal, pricing and terms,” Patrick Gillespie, deputy secretary of business operations for Florida DMS, said during the meeting. “As we’ve discussed in the past, obviously, we need to continue maintaining the system for several years as we work through a new procurement.”
A new procurement for a statewide communications network is necessary because state officials could not reach a contract agreement with Motorola Solutions to build and maintain SLERS II, which would have featured an upgrade from aging EDACS technology to a P25 Phase II system.
In January, DMS announced that it ended talks with Motorola Solutions—selected in 2017 to build SLERS II—after the LMR giant declined to sign a contract based on the terms of its bid, according to a state official.
At the time, Florida DMS Secretary Jonathan Satter wrote in a letter to Motorola Solutions that Florida DMS would “move toward the new procurement of a next-generation system.” To date, Florida DMS has not responded to multiple inquiries from IWCE’s Urgent Communications seeking clarification about what technology would be used in a “next-generation system.”
However, the 2021 fiscal year budget approved by the Florida Legislature in March—but still not signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis as he tries to assess the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic—includes more than $2.4 million for DMS to renew the current SLERS contract. The budget item also calls on DMS to pursue a resolution to a dispute surrounding access to towers owned by L3Harris, which was one of the problematic issues undermining the Motorola Solutions bid.
If approved, the budget item also provides some guidance about the state’s current vision for SLERS II.
“[DMS] is also directed to procure a business case to evaluate public safety communication solutions in collaboration with the Joint Task Force on State Agency Law Enforcement Communications,” the proposed budget item states. “The business case shall identify solutions that will expand interoperability, improve coverage, enhance audio clarity, identify emerging technology features, and advance public-safety collaboration opportunities.
“[DMS] must release a competitive procurement and, thereafter, issue an award for the replacement of the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System. At a minimum, future services must utilize the industry-standard Project 25 Phase II delivery methodology. The procurement must also consider emerging technologies to enhance interoperability, promote public safety, improve coverage and enhance audio clarity.”
This verbiage has been the subject of some speculation within public-safety-communications circles about the type of system the state would procure for SLERS II.
A P25 Phase II system would meet the budget’s stated criteria “at a minimum,” but many note that P25 is not really a “next-generation system,” could take years to procure and may have the same contractual issues that caused negotiations with Motorola Solutions to fail.
LTE-based technologies like PoC and MCPTT are much newer, provide better audio clarity than LMR systems, and they fit the “next-generation” mold, but they are unproven in mission-critical, public-safety scenarios.
Another potential option recently noted by industry observers is a hybrid LMR-LTE system that is designed to utilize the best aspects of P25 and LTE technologies. A form of this hybrid approach is being pursued in Mono County, Calif., where officials are seeking to develop a system that leverages integrated P25 radio and LTE push-to-talk service that operates on the FirstNet system that provides priority and preemption to public-safety users.
In the case of Mono County, the LTE push-to-talk technology being considered is the over-the-top BeOn application from L3Harris. BeOn was created initially to let users emulate the P25 experience over broadband connectivity. To date, officials for the state of Florida, L3Harris and others have not responded to questions from IWCE’s Urgent Communications whether BeOn push-to-talk service would meet the criteria of utilizing “the industry-standard Project 25 Phase II delivery methodology” cited in the proposed Florida state budget item.