FirstNet today released its final request for proposals (RFP), asking potential long-term partners to submit their bids by April 29 that detail their plans for deploying and operating a much-anticipated nationwide public-safety broadband network.

“We have developed this RFP in an open forum to create a ‘first of its kind’ public-private partnership for the network,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “As we move into the next phase of the process, we look forward to receiving competitive offerings to deliver the best possible network for public safety.”

FirstNet President TJ Kennedy echoed this sentiment.

“This is an opportunity to revolutionize how first responders do their job, and we appreciate the valuable public safety feedback we have received to make this happen,” Kennedy said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet is thrilled to issue an RFP that will promote innovation and deliver the best value to the public safety community."

FirstNet’s RFP documents can be accessed at https://www.fbo.gov/notices/7806696f4340f16474647ccc57805040.  

FirstNet announced that it will conduct a webinar to review key elements of the RFP on Friday, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The webinar will be open to the public and can be accessed from FirstNet’s website.

In addition to the April 29 due date for submitting RFP responses, FirstNet announced that questions and capability statements will be due on Feb. 12 and March 17, respectively.

Poth said last week that FirstNet officials hope to select the winning partner by the end of this year—a timetable that could be altered, depending on the number of bids received—so construction of the network could begin in earnest next year. FirstNet is seeking a long-term partner agreement lasting 20-25 years, Poth said.

A month ago, FirstNet board members unanimously approved the release of the RFP, a procurement document that reiterates the business model outlined when the draft RFP was released in April 2015.

Under the plan, the winning bidder will build and operate the first-responder broadband system on 20 MHz of 700 MHz broadband spectrum that is licensed to FirstNet, as well as fund FirstNet’s organizational operations. In return, the partner will get the opportunity to monetize unused network capacity and receive as much as $6.5 billion in funding from FirstNet.

Because understanding how to unlock the monetary value of the spectrum is so critical to the economic viability of the FirstNet plan, much industry attention has been focused on the interest level of potential carrier participants, whether they would opt to be the prime contractor or a key part of a bidding team.

Newcomer Rivada Networks has pledged to bid on the project, while an AT&T official last week said his company plans to pursue the FirstNet opportunity “very aggressively.” T-Mobile officials last week expressed lukewarm interest in FirstNet, but they were clearly more excited about the 600 MHz incentive spectrum auction that will begin in March. A Sprint official said his company needs to focus on fundamental business execution.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the carriers is Verizon, which holds the license to the Band 13 spectrum that is adjacent to the Band 14 airwaves licensed to FirstNet. Verizon officials have been quiet about the company’s interest in the FirstNet proposition, although at least one industry analyst has pegged Verizon as the favorite to be selected as the winning partner in the RFP process.