Only two firms bid for £5m deal to support Emergency Alerts
Minister reveals small number of interested parties in deal to deliver, design and support nationwide service
Only two companies submitted bids for the multimillion-pound contract to deliver and support the technology that underpins the Emergency Alerts System.
PublicTechnology reported seven months ago that the Government Digital Service had awarded a deal to Fujitsu, through which the firm “will be responsible for all the technical delivery, design iterations and 24/7 operational support” of the Emergency Alerts System.
The deal, which came into effect on 10 October for an initial period of one year, will be worth at least £1m to the IT company. If it runs to its full three-year term, the total value could rise to £5m.
The tech giant’s bid for the contract was one of only two that were submitted, according to Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, a junior minister at the Cabinet Office.
The minister’s comments were made in answer to a written parliamentary question from crossbench peer Lord Cromwell concerning “how many bids were received for the UK Emergency Alert System”.
Neville-Rolfe said: “The original bidding process for suppliers to deliver the UK Emergency Alert system was handled by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) during 2020 and 2021. Therefore the UK Government was not privy to the number of bids each of the MNOs received. For the contract… signed by Government Digital Service, two bids were received and Fujitsu was the winning bidder.”
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Despite her comments about the bidding processes of 2020 and 2021, during that period the government did award multimillion-pound deals for each of the UK’s four MNOs to support the emergency alerts system.
The contracts, signed by the then Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport between December 2020 and May 2021, each run for a term of five years and will be worth a cumulative tally of £15.9m to O2, Vodafone, EE, and Three.
Last month, the government conducted the first nationwide test of the system, which is designed to send warning messages to all smartphone users within range of a designated mobile mast.
Many users of the Three network did not receive the test, after which the company said: “We're aware that a number of customers have not received the test alert. We're working closely with the government to understand why and ensure it doesn't happen when the system is in use.”
The Cabinet Office, which is managing the system, said that “the vast majority of compatible phones received the alert, [but] we are aware that a very small proportion of mobile users on some networks did not receive it and will be looking at this as part of our review of the test”.
A spokesperson for the government added: “We have effectively completed the test of the UK-wide Emergency Alerts system, the biggest public communications exercise of its kind ever done. We are working with mobile network operators to review the outcome and any lessons learned."
Once the system is fully operation, alerts will be sent out in circumstances where there is considered to be an imminent threat to life or safety – primarily from extreme weather, such as heat, cold, storms, or wildfires. Messages sent out via the system will include advice and instructions for preparatory action, as well as links to sources of additional information.
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