Florida governor approves budget, clears path for L3Harris LMR extension, new statewide procurement
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently vetoed $1 billion from the state budget, but a $2.4 million measure to address the current and future needs of the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) was among the items that survived the cut, according to state sources.
Florida’s new budget includes more than $2.4 million for the state Department of Management Services (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 ability to reach a contract agreement with Motorola Solutions on a proposed SLERS upgrade to P25 Phase II technology.
With the last SLERS procurement failing to result in a contract, DMS has notified L3Harris—the incumbent vendor for SLERS—of the state’s intention to extend the existing contract until a new system can be built. The $2.4 million budget item also includes funding necessary to conduct a procurement to upgrade SLERS from aging EDACS technology to P25, according to the budget.
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 description in the $2.4 million state budget item provides some guidance about the state’s current vision for SLERS II.
“[DMS] must release a competitive procurement and, thereafter, issue an award for the replacement of the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System,” according to the budget item. “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 push-to-talk over cellular (PoC ) and mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT) are much newer, provide better audio clarity than LMR systems when LTE coverage is available, and they fit the “next-generation” mold. However, they still are considered unproven in mission-critical, public-safety scenarios, although they have gained significant acceptance within the critical-communications community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 working with L3Harris 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.