Urgent Matters

Don’t be too quick to judge New Hampshire harshly for signing deal with Rivada


Last week, New Hampshire signed an agreement with Rivada Networks to build the RAN in its state, if it decides to opt out of FirstNet. Did the state jump the gun, or was it merely keeping its options open?

“New Hampshire is limiting its options by cutting this deal with Rivada Networks”—Part 1. I’ve heard this from quite a few sources, including people whose opinions I respect immensely. However, in this case, I don’t agree with the logic.

Some have argued that New Hampshire and other states should wait until FirstNet and its partner present the FirstNet state plan, decide whether they like the FirstNet proposal, and then start the request-for-proposals (RFP) process.

That makes sense in theory, but it is much more difficult to do in reality, because Congress stipulated in the law that states would get 90 days to make an opt-decision and 180 days to complete an RFP process. Even FirstNet officials have acknowledged that this is a challenging timeline, but it is the law.

In New Hampshire, meeting this RFP timeline was not practical, according to John Stevens, the statewide interoperability coordinator who works with the New Hampshire department of safety.

“We recognized early on that … we would not be able to accomplish that in 180 days,” Stevens said.

Indeed, Stevens noted that it has taken New Hampshire more than a year to get to this agreement with Rivada Networks. In addition, it should be noted that the state’s deal with Rivada Networks is a 20-page document, which means that there is still weeks—or months—of legal work and approval processes that must be done to enter into a deal involving a 25-year commitment to build and maintain a statewide public-safety LTE network.

By completing the RFP process early, New Hampshire has a legitimate chance to consider whether it wants to pursue the opt-out alternative, something Stevens said would not have been an option otherwise.

“New Hampshire is limiting its options by cutting this deal with Rivada Networks”—Part 2. Some contend that New Hampshire should not have cut a deal with Rivada Networks at this time, because it is possible that it would get better, more-informed proposals by waiting until after the state plans are distributed in the spring.

There certainly is a case to be made that the bids in the spring could benefit from better information, because more will be known about the FirstNet system with which a New Hampshire RAN would have to interoperate. But would it offset the difficulties associated with trying to complete an RFP and contractual process under a tight deadline? I don’t think so.

This is especially the case for New Hampshire, which is a middle-of-the-pack state without a huge metropolitan area that a potential partner would value highly when looking at things from a national perspective.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

98112 (not verified)
on Sep 13, 2016

New Hampshire is acting very strategically, and frankly - yes-doing its due diligence. Every single time some momentous action occurs in the NPSBN (FirstNet) arena such as the NH contract event; the initial reaction by some is to diminish those steps taken that could remotely position a state to do what it has determined to be best for its responders, taxpayers, and all affected.
FirstNet erred early on by paying patronizing lip service to public safety and its known interests and needs Then going full speed ahead with a "take this and eat this" approach for public safety while appeasing the carriers through the actions of the FirstNet Board. The FirstNet vision has always been above all directed on how to make this about the well being of the carrier industry, not about public safety first and foremost.
Now as the clock winds down and the much touted FirstNet partner is selected; all states would be wise to take a lesson from New Hampshire. There are some serious issues with how this entire "ACT" has been governed out of D.C.. It is abundantly clear decisions were made, transparency was vanished, and doors were closed from day one. Long before FirstNet was even stood up. Public Safety is now a mere cover for a well planned wind fall to other interests before those of the PSE's responders.
Every state should acquaint itself with this entire effort, and evaluate all of the past-present-and future elements and value of FirstNet.
If they do so-I have no doubt that what New Hampshire has done by positioning themselves for maximum benefit and options to choose from; and not that of the only one served up by FirstNet will be repeated many times.
The NPSBN is an essential concept, and one of huge advantage to responders. FirstNet and their to date questionable methods are not and NEVER were the only way to achieve the goals of the NPSBN.

John Celentano (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2016

I'm glad you clarified the New Hampshire situation.
One prospective bidder believes that the Rivada solution is using proprietary technology that ultimately will prove to be more expensive for the State.
As you explained, it's not over til it's over!

Phil Burks (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2016

"(Random thought: I wonder if the FirstNet opt-out decision is—or will be—a campaign issue in New Hampshire? Of course, that would require folks to understand what FirstNet actually is, much less what will be involved in making an opt-out decision.)"

Wow! GREAT thought! And educating the public on FirstNet IS going to be tricky! Look how long it's taken all of US, who have a clue!

Scott Newman (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2016

From a pure logistics point of view, it is insane that ALL States and territories aren't following suit already. 270 cumulative days isn't enough time for most large municipalities to complete their due diligence and select a product in the best interest of their constituents, let alone an entire state. It would actually be more negligent to sit back and hope for the best in the FirstNet proposal, as it clearly may not be in the best interests for all involved. By the time they really conducted a fiscal, governance, business case and use analysis on the FirstNet plan, they will have no time to develop their own. Sure the states may be able to wait until the State Plan to actually release their RFI/RFP, but they most certainly should have the entire package ready to release by the time that State Plan comes in.

The States wouldn't wait around for some other entity to provide with a plan for roads, bridges, or other infrastructure - they'd look into multiple alternatives, because that's in the best interest of public money. So what, pray tell, makes FirstNet so special?

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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