Private equity snaps up O2 Airwave

O2's emergency services digital radio network has been bought by two of Australian bank Macquarie's managed infrastructure funds

After months of speculation, private equity has finally snapped up O2 Airwave, the mobile operator's emergency services digital radio network.

Guardian Digital Communications will take over Airwave. The company is owned jointly by two of Australian bank Macquarie's managed infrastructure funds: Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund II and Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group. It is paying £2bn to buy the network.

Rumours of Macquarie's interest in the acquisition first surfaced early this year, a month after O2 had mooted a total or partial sale of its subsidiary.

Airwave has traditionally made a business from signing up customers from among the emergency services. Its recent contract wins include a £115m agreement to kit out London Underground, a £48m deal with the Scottish Ambulance Service and a £32m contract with their Welsh counterparts.

Head of the Macquarie Bank Group in Europe, Jim Craig, said the funds were in it for the long haul, have committed to a minimum of 10 years and plan to be involved with Airwave longer.

Craig said in a statement: "Airwave is the largest built-for-purpose public safety communications network globally, with unique capabilities. There is potential to leverage the company's skills and unique know-how in the international field, as overseas governments modernise their emergency communications."

The Tetra network covers 99 percent of the UK and now has more than 220,000 users.