The Home Office is seeking suppliers for its Emergency Services Network contract, part of moves to replace the incumbent gaffe-prone £2.9bn Airwave contract due to expire in 2016.
Contracts will be awarded in 2015 for radio, television, communication, telecommunication and related equipment, with the new ESN will going live from 2016-2020. The Home Office said it will release a tender for the ESN shortly.
The Airwave contract had previously come under fire for its failure to provide radio communications coverage.
Minister of state for policing, criminal justice and victims, Mike Penning, said: "A modernised communications network is vital to help the emergency services protect the public and save lives. We are on track to deliver this critical part of our national infrastructure by 2017."
However, it is unclear how the implementation of the ESN contract will align with the as-yet-operational privatised Police ICT company (PICT). The body was set up in 2012 to oversee police IT procurement and cut the £1.2bn spent by forces on information technology.
In a speech last month Home Secretary Theresa May, said it is now up to the police and crime commissioners to start using it.
She said: "It is ready to start operational trading, and to deliver what PCCs want and need it to, and to allow suppliers to interact and engage with a much more coherent market." She added: "The Police ICT Company is owned by PCCs, and must be led by them. So it is now up to PCCs to make the Company work for them, and the police forces that they serve."
A Home Office mouthpiece said ESN and PICT were not intrinsically linked, but added the programme is engaged with PICT board members to determine how the benefits ESN will bring may be realised. ®