AT&T cannot begin its FirstNet deployment within a state until a governor accepts the state plan, with FirstNet interpreting no decision by a governor 90 days after the final state plan is submitted effectively to be a form of acceptance.

As a result, AT&T said it believes that any financial impact associated with the FirstNet deployment will be “minimal” during this calendar year. However, Stephens noted that could change if governors accept the FirstNet state plan quickly.

“If we had appropriate approvals from the state and the FirstNet authorities, we would be willing to start that investment process [in the FirstNet network] right away,” Stephens said. “We are anxious to get going, and we have the vendors lined up and the opportunity lined up to get it done.”

Both Stephens and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson referenced expected synergistic benefits that AT&T plans to realize as the carrier builds the FirstNet system nationwide.

With access to 20 MHz of spectrum associated with FirstNet, 20 MHz of AWS spectrum secured during the 2015 spectrum auction, 20 MHz of WCS spectrum acquired in 2012, and spectrum made available with the retirement of the analog 2G network, AT&T has “the leading spectrum position in the U.S.,” according to Stephenson. With this in mind, winning the FirstNet contract was “the top priority for this company” when the FirstNet request for proposals (RFP) for the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) was released, he said.

In addition to the spectrum benefits, AT&T expects to realize installation synergies, Stephenson said. When a crew installs equipment at a site for FirstNet, AT&T also plans to have those workers install gear that will let it offer services on those other spectrum holdings at the same time, he said.

“When you add it all up, we now have more than 60 MHz of fallow spectrum that we’re ready to light up,” Stephenson said. “And we’ll be deploying all of the bands simultaneously—starting this fall, when states begin to opt in to FirstNet.

“The efficiencies we’ll gain by climbing the tower once to put up multiple bands of spectrum, those efficiencies are significant. And we’re going to see those cost savings and the network performance materialize immediately and throughout life of this multiyear buildout.”

Stephens echoed this sentiment, noting that the expected synergies also will extend to the company’s strategy to deploy the fiber and sites necessary to make AT&T’s 5G vision a reality.

“The FirstNet contract award and the requirements that it provides to build out a nationwide first-responder—and the funding it provides us to do that—gives us a great opportunity to incorporate fiber builds and fiber requirements, not only for FirstNet itself but anything it can leverage off of that,” Stephens said.

“All aspects of FirstNet contract is providing us with a real opportunity to leverage off the existing fiber and then to further add to what we consider to be that lead in that market that we have.”