Massachusetts yesterday issued a request for response (RFR) that seeks input from vendors willing to build and maintain a statewide public-safety LTE radio access network (RAN), making it the seventh state to initiate a procurement designed to provide an “opt-out” alternative to the nationwide FirstNet deployment.

“In Massachusetts, an RFR is a request for response, so it’s similar to an RFP [request for proposal],” Curtis Wood, undersecretary for forensic science and technology in the Massachusetts executive office of public safety and security, said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “It’s not an RFI [request for inquiry]; it’s an RFP—we’re actually looking to hire a vendor to come in.”

As with all states that have initiated a RAN procurement to date, the Massachusetts governor and staff has not made any decisions whether to accept the final FirstNet state plan—expected to be delivered in the fall—or pursue the “opt-out” alternative, Wood said.

“We’ve been working closely with FirstNet from the beginning,” he said. “We’ve done all of our meetings with them, and the process has been fairly straightforward—no issues … We just want to cross our t’s and dot our i’s. If, in fact, we get our state plan … and it’s something that we are not satisfied with or we feel that we might be able to do something differently, then we’ll … be able to follow through with a plan and go from there [by conducting the procurement].

“We’re not disappointed or anything with FirstNet. We’ve had some good meetings with them and good conversations. We understand what they want to do, and I think we all understand the importance of having a network like that. But I think we need to, from the state’s [perspective], protect our interests—our citizens, and our financial responsibility, as well. So, we’re going to go through the process and continue to do our due diligence.”

Wood said the Massachusetts procurement is designed as a two-part process. In the first phase released yesterday, vendors are required to submit capabilities statements by July 14, while a second phase would give vendors an opportunity to provide technical and financial plans for the proposed statewide RAN, he said.

Exactly when the second phase of the Massachusetts RAN procurement would be executed, but it is clear that it would not begin until after FirstNet delivers its draft state plan, which is expected to happen in June.

“Bidders that submit a complete and satisfactory [first-phase] Capability Statement will be provided with access to the draft FirstNet Massachusetts State Plan or to summaries of the State Plan, once it is provided to Massachusetts by FirstNet,” the Massachusetts RFR document states in describing the technical and financial phase of the procurement.

“Considering information from the State Plan, eligible Bidders will provide a detailed proposal specifying how the Bidder will design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the public safety LTE radio access network in Massachusetts. In Part 2, eligible Bidders will also provide their detailed Financial Plan for providing the requested services in accordance with their Technical Proposal.”  

FirstNet representatives have stated that the governor and single point of contact (SPOC) for each state can select which people within the state can review the draft state plan. In addition, while some aspects of the final state plan will be made public, other parts—those deemed to be sensitive from a security or competitive standpoint—will be available only to selected officials that agree to sign a nondisclosure agreement.