Indeed, Rivada Mercury had a slight edge in for the coverage-and-capacity factor, although both bids were considered to be “acceptable” in this area. Rivada Mercury’s coverage-and-capacity maps and statistics were found to be “exceptional” as opposed to AT&T’s offering being “highly acceptable” in this subfactor, and the two bids were both deemed to be “acceptable” in the other two subfactor categories that were included in this factor.

When asked about his monetization-plan assessment, Carney acknowledged that it was an “inference” and “a leap,” because key words in the court ruling were redacted, making it impossible to know whether Rivada Mercury or AT&T offered greater financial value to FirstNet simply by reading the text of the redacted decision.

In the FirstNet procurement process, evaluators judged bids based on 4 factors and 18 subfactors, according to the decision. AT&T’s proposal was evaluated as being superior to the Rivada Mercury bid in 3 of the 4 factor categories, with the coverage-and-capacity factor being the lone exception.

Rivada Mercury was deemed to be “acceptable” in the past-performance factor, with evaluators noting that its bidding team included companies with significant experience deploying wireless broadband networks. AT&T’s proposal was deemed to be “highly acceptable” in this factor.

However, there was a much more pronounced discrepancy between the bids in the other two factors, according to the court decision. Evaluators considered AT&T’s proposal to be significantly better in the business-management and products-and-architecture factors. In both of these factors, the AT&T bid was deemed to be “acceptable,” while the Rivada Mercury proposal was considered “unacceptable.”

A review of the subfactors in these categories is even more striking. Of the 15 subfactors considered in these two factors, AT&T received 3 “exceptional” ratings, 3 “highly acceptable” ratings, 7 “acceptable” ratings and 2 “unacceptable” ratings. In contrast, Rivada Mercury received 5 “acceptable” ratings and 10 “unacceptable” ratings, with no subfactor ratings of “highly acceptable” or “exceptional” within these two factor categories.

AT&T’s two “unacceptable” ratings were given in the quality-assurance-surveillance-plan and the operations subfactors. Rivada Mercury also received “unacceptable” ratings in these subfactors.

A key theme noted by evaluators was the lack of firm agreements between Rivada Mercury and key partners—with both the financial institutions that would be needed to finance the deal and the company team members that would help execute the network deployment.

Rivada Mercury secured letters from nine financial institutions expressing willingness to provide third-party financing to the consortium to build the nationwide FirstNet system, according to the court decision. But those letters also included language that was troubling to evaluators.

“These letters ‘represent[ed] the banks’ confidence in [their] ability’ to secure financing for Rivada,’” according to the ruling, quoting evaluators. “But they also included numerous conditions and caveats. … In light of these conditions and caveats, the [evaluators] determined that the letters, on their faces, did not constitute ‘an acceptable commitment to provide financing for Rivada.’”