Florida contract with L3Harris for SLERS P25, FirstNet interoperability totals $450 million
L3Harris Technologies this week announced that it will maintain and upgrade the Florida Statewide Law Enforcement Radio Systems (SLERS) to Project 25 (P25) Phase 2 under a 15-year contract worth $450 million—the largest public-safety LMR contract awarded in the United States in years, according to industry sources.
There was no surprise associated with L3Harris being named as the contractor to build the P25 SLERS, which is known as SLERS-2—the Florida Legislature made the award to L3Harris as part of budget process, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the budget into law. But L3Harris CEO Chris Kubasik was the first to publicly state the terms of the 15-year, $450 million deal, which was announced during the company’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday.
Florida’s elected leaders took the unusual step of preempting on ongoing second SLERS-2 procurement with the budgetary award just weeks before the existing SLERS contract with L3Harris was about to expire. A second SLERS-2 procurement was initiated after the vendor selected in the initial SLERS-2 procurement—Motorola Solutions—could not reach a contract agreement with the state after submitting a winning bid of $687.8 million, which was more than $300 million less than the bid from L3Harris at the time.
Many within the public-safety-communications arena have been monitoring Florida SLERS developments closely. In addition to the size of the contract, sources throughout the industry have been intrigued to learn how the state of Florida would seek to realize its plans for a “next-generation system” that is designed to provide first responders interoperable access to both P25 LMR and LTE-based FirstNet technologies.
According to the new agreement with the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS), L3Harris will operate and maintain the statewide system and will be paid $19 million annually—a figure similar to the payments it has received for years as the SLERS incumbent—for 15 years, for a total of $285 million. L3Harris also will be paid $111 million to upgrade the 197 SLERS sites from aging EDACS-EA to P25 technology.
In addition to the $396 million contract for the LMR network, the state of Florida will pay L3Harris $54 million for new portable and mobile radios that state officials intend to be operational in the field by June 30 next year.
These new devices will be capable of operating on both the EDACS-EA and P25 networks—as well as on the FirstNet system—as part of the interoperability vision for SLERS-2.
“SLERS-2 shall support interoperability between SLERS-2 and other radio systems used throughout the state for mutual-aid and interoperable communications,” according to the contract. “SLERS-2 shall be a standards-based communications system allowing for interoperability between P25 Compliance Assessment Program (CAP) compliant radios.
“SLERS-2 shall be equipped and licensed with Inter-RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) equipment providing interoperability with other P25 systems, that meets P-25 (ISSI) standards. SLERS-2 shall support equipment and services for the Interoperability Subsystem.”
One unique aspect of SLERS-2 is the requirement that it support interoperable communications with FirstNet, the nationwide public-safety broadband network being built by AT&T. To make this vision a reality, the L3Harris contract stipulates that SLERS-2 will have a Smartphone/Broadband Device Integration (SPBBI) Subsystem that will “integrate voice and data between SLERS-2 broadband devices and/or smartphone applications and SLERS-2 systems and subsystems.”
The contract outlines the push-to-talk capabilities that the SPBBI must enable.
“The SPBBI Subsystem shall provide Push-to-Talk (PTT) communications operating over private and public Wi-Fi networks, 3G/4G/5G carrier networks, including but not limited to FirstNet’s LTE network. The SPBBI Subsystem must support the following:
“1. Carrier integrated PTT over cellular (PTToC)
“2. Over-the-top PTToC operation on carrier networks
“3. PTT communications on private and public Wi-Fi and other broadband networks (PTToBB)
“4. Contractor [L3Harris] will not be held responsible for performance of the cellular network.”
L3Harris also must supply a computer-aided-dispatch (CAD) interface service that will support communications with a new CAD system that is expected to be deployed beginning in 2023, according to the contract.
Signed on June 30—the final day of the initial SLERS contract between the state of Florida and L3Harris—and effective on July 1, the new SLERS-2 contract ensured that Florida first responders maintained mission-critical voice communications without disruption, a DMS spokesperson confirmed.
Looking ahead, the contract outlines that L3Harris will begin by installing VIDA Premier Cores in the Orlandoo and Jacksonville areas, upgrading existing P25 Aircraft and Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) locations from P25 Phase 1 to P25 Phase 2, and replacing microwave links in the southeastern and east-central parts of the state.
After that, L3 Harris is expected to implement phased upgrades from the aging EDACS-EA technology—SLERS is the last network in the world to use the proprietary protocol—to P25 Phase 2 on a region-by-region basis.
“The goal of the P25 upgrade plan is to keep the EDACS-EA system operational while users in each region are transitioned to the upgraded P25 system within that region,” the contract states. “During the transition, a link will be established via the VIDA IP Gateway to allow communications between users of both SLERS-2 and the EDACS-EA system.
“At the completion of each region, cutover to the upgraded P25 system will take place. Existing SLERS EDACS-EA equipment will remain in place and offline during this period for fallback capability.”
P25 equipment first will be “installed, commissioned and P25 Verification Test Procedures performed at all sites” in the Miami and Lake Worth regions, according to the contract. This process will be repeated sequentially in the Orlando and Jacksonville region, the Tampa and Ft. Myers region, and then the Tallahassee and Pensacola region.
New equipment—notably, Symphony consoles from L3Harris—also will be deployed in regional dispatch centers, according to the contract.
“Work in the dispatch centers located in each region is essential for a successful cutover,” the contract states. “Consoles will be replaced on a one-for-one basis. Connectivity between the new console and the legacy EDACS-EA SLERS equipment will be maintained through the VIDA IP Gateway. Contractor and the State will have a dispatch workshop to review the capabilities of the new Symphony console and develop a standard/default Symphony console screen layout.
“Once the above upgrade work is completed, users can be successfully cutover to the upgraded SLERS-2 radio system on a region-by-region basis.”
After the transition to P25 Phase 2 technology is completed, use of the EDACS-EA technology will be discontinued, according to the contract.
Scheduled target dates for completing each phase of the P25 Phase 2 rollout are not publicly available yet, as the publicly available contract is heavily redacted in sections where that information likely exists.
However, contract language associated with the conveyance of SLERS towers from L3Harris to the state of Florida may provide some indication about the scheduled timing for completion of the overall project. According to the contract, the towers would be conveyed within 60 days of July 1, 2026, or of the final acceptance of the SLER-2 upgrade, whichever is earlier.
This conveyance language in the contract should address a longtime concern about access to the towers, which was cited as one of the reasons that Motorola Solutions was unable to reach a contract agreement with the DMS in late 2019.
“The Contractor [L3Harris] shall convey all Conveyed Towers, along with the Communications System and SLERS-2, to the Department in their “as is” condition, free and clear of all liens and encumbrances, at no cost to the Department,” the new contract states.
In addition, contract language indicates potential changes in the makeup of the SLERS tower portfolio, noting that DMS and L3Harris “will evaluate ways to reduce the number of third-party leased towers used in the Communications System including, without limitation, opportunities to use towers owned by state agencies as well as opportunities to construct new towers on state-owned real property.
“The objective will be to develop a mutually agreed upon amendment to this contract for the construction or use of a new tower(s) (and end a third-party tower lease) including, without limitation, the project requirements, project schedule, and potential compensation for the contractor [L3Harris].”
This new contract with L3Harris was established under a budget framework approved by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Budget language called for DMS to sign a 15-year contract with L3Harris to maintain the existing EDACS EA network—the last one in the world to use this technology—and build a new P25 system, as well as earmarking $55 million to be spent on the new EDAC/P25 radios.
The reason the legislative action for a P25 upgrade to SLERS was deemed necessary by many is that Motorola Solutions did not agree to a contract with the state after being selected in the procurement phase and surviving a lengthy protest from L3Harris. In January 2020, DMS announced that it ended talks with Motorola Solutions after the LMR giant declined to sign a contract based on the terms of its bid, according to a state official.
Florida lawmakers awarded the no-bid contract to L3Harris—referenced as “the entity that was operating the statewide radio communications system”—at the end of April, during the final week of this year’s legislative session. Legislators took the unusual measure while citing the need for “emergency action,” as the existing SLERS contract with L3Harris was due to expire on June 30.