Urgent Matters

It’s still early, but the winner of the FirstNet RFP appears to be … public safety

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Today's Rivada Mercury announcement revealing its key team members of its offeror team should make potential public-safety customers more comfortable about the proposed FirstNet nationwide broadband network, even if Rivada Mercury does not emerge as the selected contractor.

You didn’t think I was going to project which offeror team will be selected as the FirstNet contractor, did you?

At this point, we only have public confirmation of one bid, which comes from the newly named Rivada Mercury, a consortium of well-known players that is led by Rivada Networks, a company that has been at the forefront of the FirstNet project to build a nationwide public-safety broadband network since Congress created it more than four years ago.

By revealing many of its key partners today, Rivada Mercury provided valuable insight into the realities of making a FirstNet proposal and likely put potential first-responder customers somewhat more at ease that Rivada Mercury—if selected by the FirstNet evaluation team—would not be trying to tackle tasks in which it lacked background and experience.

FirstNet is in an unprecedented project, so no one can really claim to have experience building and operating such a nationwide network. But the FirstNet request for proposal (RFP) outlines 16 core objectives related to everything from public-safety operations to cybersecurity, and the selected contractor needs a team with a high level of expertise in each of these areas.

No one company can do this alone, because the project is too big and requires expertise in so many fields that traditionally have not been related. In the case of Rivada Networks, virtually everyone has applauded the company’s business-model concept to leverage its Dynamic Spectrum Arbitrage (DSA) technology to monetize the value of unused spectrum.

It’s an extremely important piece to the puzzle, but it’s only one piece. Rivada Networks cannot point to experience in building LTE networks, providing carrier services, deploying large-scale public-safety networks or combating sophisticated cyberattacks. But the key is that company officials recognized this and established a team of partners that do have proven expertise in these areas.

For some, the Rivada Mercury consortium may not be a “dream team”—everyone has their vendor preferences in specific areas—but few would question that each of the announced vendors would bring valuable experience and expertise to the project.

From the outside, this appears to be a team that should be able to make a viable proposal for FirstNet, and Rivada Networks officials have promised from the beginning that it will design a network that provides public-safety users with “ruthless preemption” access to the network—something the first-responder community has stated it wants.

Has the Rivada Mercury team submitted the best proposal for FirstNet? There’s no way to know at this time, because we don’t know who the other prime bidders are, much less the companies involved in their teams. But public-safety representatives should be pleased to learn that Rivada Mercury appears to have a qualified team; if another bidder has a better team, that should only benefit first responders.

Of course, any cook will tell you that you need good ingredients to make a great meal, but simply having top-notch ingredients does not guarantee a culinary success—proper preparation and integration of the ingredients is crucial. It appears that Rivada Mercury has good ingredients, and any bidder that hopes to beat it will need to have the same.

No matter who wins the FirstNet contract, that reality should be good news for public safety. To return to the cooking analogy, early signs indicate there is reason to be optimistic that first responders will be feasting at the end of the FirstNet evaluation process, choosing from new menu items that have never been available before. And that's the way it should be.

 

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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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