The UK has imposed a price cap on how much Motorola Solutions can charge the emergency services to use its Airwave radio network.
It comes off the back of an investigation from the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA), which found that the price cap is the only effective way to ensure the emergency services aren't overpaying.
The price cap enforced by the CMA is set to mean that Motorola Solutions is forced to reduce by more than £1 billion ($1.25bn) its contracted price for the provision of the UK’s emergency services communications network in the coming years.
Motorola's Airwave Network provides the essential dedicated mobile network that the police, fire, ambulance, and other emergency services use to communicate securely.
The CMA has stepped in to impose the cap to stop Motorola, which owns the company that operates the network, from enforcing higher costs that are ultimately paid by taxpayers.
According to a post by the government, the price cap puts an end to the estimated £200 million ($249m) per year over-charging, noting that there will be a review held in 2026, but that the cap has been set to apply until the end of 2029.
"Our emergency services have to use the Airwave Network to protect the public and themselves. When the original contract period for the Airwave Network came to an end, there was no alternative provider so Motorola held all the cards when it came to pricing," said Martin Coleman, chair of the CMA’s independent inquiry group, who said the cap will 'end the supernormal profits' that Motorola has been making, which based on the contractual terms would amount to £1.27bn ($1.58bn) over the decade.
"As a result, the emergency services are locked in with a monopoly provider with no option but to pay a much higher price than they would if the market was working well. We are generally reluctant to impose price controls, but the particular circumstances of this case mean that a price cap is the only effective way of ensuring the emergency services, and the taxpayers who fund them, aren’t paying considerably over the odds."
All this comes after recent reports that the Home Office is unsure when the UK government’s 4G-based Emergency Services Network (ESN) will be ready, with a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) revealing that the ESN could be delayed until 2029 or later.
It meant that the Airwave Network has continued to be used, even though it was due to end in late 2019 or early 2020, and replaced by the commercial 4G mobile network, the ESN, when the contract ended.
This means it's likely that the Airwave Network, which was originally commissioned by the Home Office through an open procurement exercise in 2000, is still relied upon.
Motorola, which bought Airwave back in 2016, is unsurprisingly not happy with the price cap.
"We believe this unprecedented overreach will have a chilling effect on long-term investment and contracting with the UK government," Motorola Solutions said.
It was reported last month that the Home Office has spent £2 billion ($2.4bn) on the ESN project so far while spending £2.9bn ($3.49bn) to keep Airwave going.
The NAO report also revealed that the Home Office paid out £45 million ($54m) to terminate its contract with Motorola Solutions two years early for the delivery of the core voice application for the ESN.