FirstNet CEO gets go-ahead for AT&T deal

By:
Alan Burkitt-Gray
Published on:

FirstNet board tells CEO to award contract for emergency services network to AT&T, though it doesn't mention AT&T

FirstNet’s board has taken a unanimous decision to award its $47 billion contract for US emergency services to AT&T – though AT&T was not mentioned once during yesterday’s board meeting.

The government organisation, which is charged with setting up a nationwide network for first responders, told CEO Mike Poth to “to take all actions necessary to ensure the timely award of the network contract”.

AT&T is the only bidder in the race to set up the nationwide network, though individual states and territories can choose to award their local contracts to rivals. The initial budget is set at $6.5 billion for the first year.

Sue Swenson, chair of FirstNet, said: “This is a significant milestone for FirstNet and for the public safety community. We are bringing the procurement to the finish line and soon will be forming an innovative public-private partnership to deploy the network.”

The full contract will run 25 years, and AT&T will get 20MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band via the deal.

Poth said: “I want to thank the board for this important decision today, which is a critical step in finalizing the network procurement. Upon award, FirstNet will immediately start work on delivering this network to public safety and fulfilling our promise to them.”

Close observers in the US suggest that AT&T will be awarded the contract this week. A rival bidder, Rivada Mercury, finally lost its chance of the contract after a US appeal court dismissed its protect earlier in March. Rivada Mercury was a joint venture between Rivada Networks, controlled by Irish businessman Declan Ganley, and vendors including Fujitsu, Nokia, Harris and Black & Veatch.

A third bidder, pdvWireless, was excluded from the process in late 2016 for reasons that are still not known.

According to specialist publication Urgent Communications, Harris was part of AT&T’s bid as well as Rivada’s. The publication cites an interview it has carried out with Harris CTO Dennis Martinez in which he says: “We wanted to make sure that FirstNet could have access to Harris’s products and services, regardless of who won the prime bid.”

Nokia may also be part of the AT&T proposal, as one of the only two major global mobile radio network equipment suppliers allowed to sell into the US market – given the long-term exclusion of Huawei and ZTE.

Rivada Mercury is now focusing its hopes on contracts from individual states.