States wanting to “opt out” of FirstNet—build its own state radio access network (RAN) for the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN)—must submit a plan that is cost-effective, will be deployed in a timely manner, possibly bonded and interoperable with the nationwide system to get approval from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), according to a notice released today by the agency.

Comments on the NTIA notice must be submitted by Aug. 18, according to the notice that was published today in the Federal Register.

Getting NTIA approval is the second-to-last step in the lengthy process that a state must complete to “opt out” of FirstNet, which is expected to sign a 25-year agreement with a contractor later this year and submit a public-safety LTE deployment plan to all 56 states and territories six months later—possibly May 1 next year. If NTIA grants approval to a state opt-out plan, that state then would have the right to negotiate a spectrum-lease agreement with FirstNet.

In today’s notice, NTIA concurs with FirstNet legal interpretations in at least two key areas: (1) FirstNet will negotiate the spectrum-lease agreement with the prospective opt-out state; and (2) that the cost-effectiveness criteria of a state opt-out plan will be judged against FirstNet’s proposed deployment plan for the state, as well as associated costs that could impact the nationwide communications mission.

Given this, NTIA notes that any state plan to build a public-safety LTE network from scratch likely will not meet the cost-effectiveness criteria.

“In determining cost-effectiveness, NTIA may assess areas, including but not limited to, the proposed federal and state partner share of the RAN cost; the value, use, and revenue return of spectrum and other assets; and overall financial value of the proposed plan,” the NTIA notice states. “For example, a state plan that proposes a ‘greenfield’ build (one that does not leverage existing infrastructure and/or a public-private partnership and deploys a network solely consisting of new components) is not likely to demonstrate cost effectiveness.

“Additionally, the Act makes clear that a nationwide buildout can provide significant economies of scale across state boundaries that can leverage existing infrastructure when feasible and reduce the cost of NPSBN RAN construction in any given state or territory. NTIA will take these cross-border economies into account in the context of a state opt-out plan’s cost effectiveness.”