Watchdog voices fears Motorola ‘cashing in’ on emergency radio network

The Competition and Markets Authority said its concerns centre on Motorola’s dual role as owner of the network and a key supplier in its replacement.

Holly Williams
Thursday 08 July 2021 12:38
Metropolitan Police – stock
Metropolitan Police – stock

Motorola’s mobile radio network used by emergency services across the UK faces a potential probe by the competition watchdog amid concerns the firm is “cashing in” at the expense of the taxpayer.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was consulting on whether to investigate Motorola over worries surrounding its dual role as both owner of the mobile radio network, Airwave, and as a key supplier for its planned replacement.

The CMA said it was “particularly concerned” that Motorola could stand to make excess profits of around £1.2 billion from 2020 to 2026, which would ultimately be funded by the taxpayer.

We’re worried that the company could be cashing in on its position, while taxpayers are left to foot the bill

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA

The regulator said two possible solutions to its concerns could be to regulate Motorola’s rate of return from the Airwave network or to force Motorola to sell the Airwave network.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: “At the moment, Motorola is the only provider of critical mobile radio network services used by our emergency service workers and is involved in both the current and future set-up.

“We’re worried that the company could be cashing in on its position, while taxpayers are left to foot the bill.

“The CMA is minded to launch a market investigation to dig deeper into its concerns and will now consult with a range of stakeholders, including the Government on its plans.”

Motorola bought Airwave – a mobile radio network used by all emergency services in the UK – in February 2016, two months after it had struck a deal with the Government to provide software for the new Emergency Services Network set to replace Airwave.

The acquisition was cleared by the CMA, with the understanding that the Government would shut down the Airwave network by 2019, but this has now been delayed until the end of 2026.

The CMA’s consultation will run until September 2, when it will decide whether to launch a full investigation.

A spokesman for Motorola said: “As a trusted technology partner to the UK market for more than 50 years, Motorola Solutions remains committed to working with the Home Office to deliver mission-critical communications.

“This includes the Airwave network that UK emergency services rely upon every day, and the safe transition to next-generation technologies (Emergency Services Network).”