Urgent Matters

Will other states follow New Hampshire’s lead and conduct their own RFPs for public-safety LTE?

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The state of New Hampshire announced that it received five bids in response to its request for proposal (RFP) to build a statewide public-safety LTE system. Now, officials in many of the other 55 states and territories likely are asking whether they also should follow the RFP path blazed by New Hampshire.

This week, the state of New Hampshire announced that it received five bids in response to its request for proposal (RFP) to build a statewide public-safety LTE system. Now, officials in many of the other 55 states and territories likely are asking whether they also should follow the RFP path blazed by New Hampshire.

Like many others in the industry, my initial reaction to the state of New Hampshire’s announcement in December that it had released was one of bewilderment. Not only did the timing seem odd—just days after FirstNet got board approval for its nationwide RFP, which would not be released for another month—but the New Hampshire RFP stipulated that the state LTE network would operate on Band 14 airwaves in the 700 MHz band.

Of course, those frequencies are licensed to FirstNet, not the state of New Hampshire. With this in mind, some industry observers questioned whether vendors would allocate the resources necessary to prepare and submit bids for a project that might never happen. Others wondered—if the identity of bidders was leaked—whether bidders would risk being viewed negatively by FirstNet when pursuing the nationwide business.

Apparently, none of this was a problem, as New Hampshire received five bids. We may never learn about the quality of the bids, but the fact is that they are bids—and there’s a lot of inherent value in that.

Broad conversations with a vendor representative about possibilities can be an important starting point in doing research for a project, but there’s nothing binding about them. In addition, statements made during those conversations may not be entirely accurate, even if there is no intent to be misleading—without proper due diligence, it is difficult for any one person to know all aspects of something as new and complex as public-safety LTE deployments.   

But bids are different. Presumably, bidders have examined the opportunity from all angles before submitting their proposals, which represent a written commitment to execute certain tasks under the conditions established in the RFP.

To use a personal-finance analogy, consider the process associated with buying a house. Visiting model homes and attending open houses is nice for getting an idea about what you’d like, but real negotiations don’t happen until you have a loan-approval letter—somewhat like a bid in the public-safety LTE scenario—in hand.

Now New Hampshire has bids to evaluate, and that process likely will include a lot of give-and-take feedback with bidders, which should give officials some excellent insights into the opportunities and challenges associated with public-safety LTE deployment in the state. This should make New Hampshire much more knowledgeable as it enters into the next critical rounds of state consultation meetings with FirstNet.

For instance, if multiple vendors responding to the state RFP indicate they would cover a certain geographic part of the New Hampshire with permanent LTE sites, then state representatives should be comfortable calling for such coverage in the state plan from FirstNet’s contractor. Conversely, if none of the state RFP bids proposed to meet a given request, demanding that FirstNet’s contractor probably is not realistic.

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

on Feb 25, 2016

I haven't seen any comments as to why they are requesting RFP's other than that they want the governor to make an informed decision. Could it be that their state constitution requires such action or it may be a question of they don't quite know (due to an unclear statute) and want to have all their bases covered. It could be a case of being overly careful.

It will be interesting to see if other states follow their lead.

on Feb 26, 2016

Another aspect of this is that the state's RFP was pretty bare bones, containing little or none of the security, reliability, availability and quality assurance requirements of FirstNet. Can FirstNet require that an opt out state's network meets these requirements as well?

who cares (not verified)
on Feb 26, 2016

There are only 50 states not 55 like the article stated.. Things like this makes me feel like whoever wrote the article is a moron!

on Feb 26, 2016

I'm guessing this won't change your feelings, but just to clarify, the article references New Hampshire and the "other 55 states and territories." FirstNet is required to submit its state deployment plans to 50 states and six U.S. territories (actually five territories and the District of Columbia, but they typically have been grouped together in FirstNet references). Thanks for reading.

User 98112 (not verified)
on Feb 26, 2016

States would be wise to follow NH's lead. FN has had more than three years to convince public safety of its value; and soon FN will be giving states 90 days post notification to Opt In or Opt Out. The Governors in Home Rule states generally speaking cannot force local governments to Opt In or Opt Out. They can elect for the state government only.

There is something about due diligence that demands a state and its local governments to evaluate -is this actually a good deal-the right thing for us.
Now FN is claiming the calendar is on fire-we got to hurry this up.
The present timing of FN is to coerce decisions without Public Safety Entities actually and entirely knowing the details. Like the open and public vetting of the selected Contractor, the real on-going costs, all of the actual terms, the informed expectations of outcomes, and most important the GIVE from public safety for the GET( loss of local control, loss of choice, the NPSBN spectrum being leveraged to force compliance with the FN Boards' cloistered decisions).
There is much to be concerned about FN as we know it today. States develop your own strategy. Don't just blindly follow FN; there are no public benefit reasons to do that.

Bob (not verified)
on Feb 29, 2016

Its all well and good until you consider that NH only really needs 1 tall enough tower to cover the entire state. There are west coast counties bigger than NH.

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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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