Motorola Solutions looks to be part of Florida statewide system, exec says
Motorola Solutions failed to reach a contract agreement with the state of Florida to build a statewide P25 network a year ago, but the vendor plans to participate in the upcoming Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS-2) procurement, according to a company executive.
Jack Molloy, Motorola Solutions’ executive vice president of products and worldwide sales, confirmed the company’s interest in the second SLERS-2 procurement process, which was initiated only after Motorola Solutions failed to negotiate an agreement with state officials in January 2020.
“We absolutely plan to participate,” Molloy said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Listen, Florida’s been a really important market for us. It’s been a very good market … because of the number of counties [that use Motorola Solutions] and the business they do. We just repatriated a big chunk of P25 engineers into our South Florida location.
“So, without a doubt, it’s a deal that we plan on participating in.”
The Florida Department of Management Services (DMS) plans to release an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for SLERS-2 during the first half of this year as part of the procurement to find a vendor willing to build and maintain the statewide network.
Motorola Solutions did not have an announced representative attend last month’s meeting of the SLERS Joint Task Force Technical Committee, which was updated about the ITN development for SLERS-2 that will be based on the business case completed last year by Federal Engineering. Under the best-case timeline in the business case, the SLERS-2 contract would be awarded in June 2022, with the system becoming operational statewide during the latter half of 2026.
Vendors with announced representatives at the January technical committee meeting included SLERS incumbent L3Harris, AT&T and Verizon, although none of those representatives spoke about the SLERS-2 procurement during the proceedings.
DMS officials are trying to negotiate an agreement with L3Harris to keep the current SLERS—a network that uses aging EDACS technology—operational for multiple years beyond the expiration of the existing contract, which expires at the end of June.
When asked by IWCE’s Urgent Communications whether L3Harris plans to participate in the upcoming SLERS-2 procurement, L3Harris and Verizon declined to comment on the matter. AT&T provided the following statement to the inquiry:
“AT&T is aware of the Florida SLERS effort and the challenges that the State of Florida is facing with their efforts to modernize the state’s law enforcement radio network,” according to the AT&T statement provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “Today, AT&T is proud to be providing America’s only dedicated Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network through its public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority. We are equally proud that hundreds of public-safety agencies throughout Florida have adopted FirstNet for a full array of broadband communications needs.
“We continue to drive leading-edge public-safety innovation with unique offers such as FirstNet Push-to-Talk, Z-Axis and MegaRange. As the state continues its review of the recent business case and makes it decision to proceed with an eventual procurement, they can rest assured that FirstNet – Built with AT&T stands ready to support its customers in the Sunshine State.”
Both AT&T and Verizon last year introduced services based on the mission-critical-push-to-talk (MCPTT) standard from 3GPP. In its SLERS-2 business case, Federal Engineering noted concerns about off-network performance, testing platforms, and a lack of interoperability with current MCPTT and push-to-talk-over-cellular (PoC) services, noting that these factors “prevent them from being a suitable LMR-replacement consideration.”
On Jan. 26, AT&T unveiled an LMR interoperability offering for its FirstNet PTT services via radio-over-IP (RoIP) technology, as well as the FirstNet MegaRange service that leverages high-power user equipment (HPUE) to extend the effective coverage and reliable connectivity for its public-safety LTE users.
Even with these enhancements, the current version of FirstNet PTT is not ready to replace LMR as the primary tool to deliver mission-critical voice communications, according to Scott Agnew, AT&T’s assistant vice president for FirstNet products.
“I think we’re still in the same position, where we can augment an LMR network,” Agnew said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We are absolutely the primary network when it comes to data. I think LMR continues to be the gold standard for voice.
“As the technology evolves, public safety will make that determination on the technology they use. But right now, I think FirstNet does a really good job of supporting voice technologies in the public-safety marketplace.”
This current SLERS-2 procurement process is necessary because Motorola Solutions and DMS officials ended contract talks a little more than a year ago, after Motorola Solutions was selected as the vendor—surviving a lengthy protest from L3Harris—to build a P25 Phase II system to replace the existing EDACS network. Motorola Solutions declined to sign a contract based on the terms of its $687.8 million 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.”
A $2.4 million item in the Florida state budget released last year provides some guidance about the state’s current vision for SLERS-2.
“[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 budget item also calls on DMS to pursue a resolution to a dispute surrounding access to towers owned by L3Harris—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.
Although the tower dispute was a problem, most sources familiar with the failed Motorola Solutions talks indicated that biggest sticking point in the negotiations 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. All vendors seeking the P25 contract were required to accept this condition during the bidding process, but Motorola Solutions would not accept it as part of the contract with the state, according to a letter from Satter.
While the budget language calls on the state to resolve the tower issue, DMS officials have given no indication that they are willing to remove the “termination for convenience” clause from the upcoming procurement.