Rivada Mercury is protesting its elimination from consideration to become FirstNet’s contractor to build and operate the much-anticipated nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN)—an action that points to AT&T as the selected bidder, although court documents indicate that the award likely will be delayed until at least March.

Rivada Mercury’s claims that the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI)—the government agency overseeing the procurement process for the FirstNet contractor in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)—erred in eliminating the Rivada Mercury bid. Led by Rivada Networks, the bidding team is seeking a ruling that its exclusion from the final “competitive range” phase of the federal procurement was “arbitrary and capricious,” requesting a permanent injunction on the contract award until the Rivada Mercury bid is evaluated fully.

“We believe our exclusion from the competitive range was wrong, both as a matter of law and the facts,” Rivada Networks spokesman Brian Carney said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We are contesting that decision to get put back into the competitive range. We don’t think a competitive range of one is very competitive, nor is it in the interest of public safety, taxpayers or the government.”

Rivada Mercury was informed that its bid was being dismissed from consideration on Oct. 17—the same day similar notification was given to the offeror team led by pdvWireless. The protest was filed on Nov. 21, and a redacted version of the lawsuit was made available for public viewing on Wednesday.

“On October 17, 2016, the contracting officer informed Rivada Mercury that its proposal had been excluded from the competitive range, because it was not among the most highly rated proposals,” according to Rivada Mercury’s lawsuit protesting the procurement decision. “Based on industry intelligence, Rivada Mercury understands that the competitive range was reduced to only one offeror.”

Although Rivada Mercury does not name the AT&T offeror team as the lone remaining bidder for the nationwide FirstNet initiative, AT&T is the only publicly announced offeror that has not acknowledged that it was removed from contention. In addition, AT&T has been added as a “defendant-intervenor” for the U.S. government in the Rivada Mercury protest lawsuit—a status that would not have been granted unless the carrier was the winning bidder, according to legal sources.

AT&T’s motion to intervene as defendant reinforces the notion that the telecom giant is the evaluation team’s top choice to be FirstNet’s nationwide contractor.

“Because AT&T is within the competitive range and stands a substantial chance of receiving the award in this procurement, AT&T has a direct interest in the outcome of this case,” the AT&T motion states. “As an offeror whose proposal was accepted into the competitive range and who is currently seeking to be awarded the contract under this procurement, AT&T has direct and substantial economic interests at stake in this case, and its disposition clearly could impair those interests.

“Furthermore, AT&T understands that Rivada’s complaint seeks permanent injunctive relief, which could delay and/or disrupt the procurement and directly harm AT&T’s financial interests.”