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The government has been accused of mishandling a multi-billion pound project to equip the emergency services with a...
The government has been accused of mishandling a multi-billion pound project to equip the emergency services with a new radio system over claims that it is skewed in favour of operator mmO2, formerly BT Cellnet, reported The Independent on Sunday (Business, p1).

The DTLR is to launch a competition to select a company to provide the fire service with a national communications system. However, some telecoms operators are already considering boycotting the£500m project because they believe they have little chance of winning.

BT Cellnet won a£2.9bn deal to develop a new mobile network for the police service, called Airwave. One rival, which asked to remain anonymous, said since mmO2 would be able to piggback the fire service network on Airwave, it would not be able to compete on price.

Last month the National Audit Office criticised the handling of the Airwave project, accusing it of failing to deliver a seamless network across all emergency services. It also said that if mmO2, through Airwave, won other public radio contracts, then the police service would see no financial gain.

Originally, the fire service was to buy its radio equipment through regional contracts. NTL was selected as preferred bidder for the south west, while Airwave was selected for the west midlands and Shropshire. The DTLR confirmed the contracts would now be scrapped, and shortlisted companies could be compensated. It denied the procurement would favour mmO2. 'The process will be a level playing field', said a spokesman.
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