New General Dynamics unit eyes FirstNet opportunities
General Dynamics is prepared to pursue deployment contracts associated with the much-anticipated nationwide public-safety broadband network after the systems integrator recently acquired LTE expertise by purchasing IPWireless, according to officials for the new company, known as General Dynamics Broadband.
Operating as a subsidiary of General Dynamics C4 Systems, General Dynamics Broadband was created after last month’s acquisition of IPWireless, a private company. IPWireless deployed an extensive 2.5 GHz wireless broadband system in New York City and was expected to build a public-safety LTE system in Adams County, Colo., before federal officials halted the projects in anticipation of next month’s appointment of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board.
“We’re blending the capabilities of IPWireless with the capabilities of General Dynamics,” said Manny Mora, senior vice president for General Dynamics C4 Systems. “With our ability to really understand users and mission-critical networks … blended with IPWireless, we’re stepping up in a big way into a position for the buildout of FirstNet.”
General Dynamics targeted IPWireless after seeing the flexible nature of the private company’s broadband technology portfolio, which includes LTE and secure mesh-network platforms, Mora said.
“One of the things [IPWireless does] that’s different from your commercial vendors is their ability to tailor their equipment, whether it’s a different frequency or a different feature,” he said. “Implementing distinct features is something that we’ve seen as something that’s very, very important to customers as their needs evolve. They can do that, and they can scale up or down in a very cost-effective manner.”
For IPWireless, joining General Dynamics allows it to leverage the vast sales contacts and government-contracting opportunities that the company previously could pursue only through partnership with system integrators such as Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.
“I think that, in the market, IPWireless was always seen as having great technology, but there’s always a risk for any city or state to buy from a small private company like we were,” said Jon Hambidge, former IPWireless employee and currently General Dynamics Broadband’s vice president of business development and marketing. “I think having both the resources and a more secure partner, combined with the technology that we’ve been focused on for a long time, really matches up very well for what we think the states are looking for right now.”
And that market presence is not limited to the public-safety sector — or the United States, according to Bill Jones, the former IP Wireless CEO who now serves as vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Broadband.
“We see LTE as being the standard that most — if not all — government networks will move toward for data and, in the future, for voice,” Jones said. “And that’s not just in the U.S.; that’s a global statement.”
Being part of the General Dynamics Broadband team also should enable the development of end-to-end solutions that IP Wireless lacked the resources to provide on its own, Jones said. In fact, the melding of General Dynamics and IPWireless means the network-integration and LTE expertise will be held in the same company, while these features typically are being met only through vendor partnerships in the rest of the industry.
“Having our own in-house LTE capabilities lets us really address some of those unique [public-safety broadband] requirements, as they come up,” Hambidge said. “I don’t think this network is going to end up looking like Verizon’s national LTE network; I think there’s going to be a lot of unique requirements.
“I think it’s going to be complicated … and we fully intend to support that complexity. I think, by having our own LTE solutions from the core out to the device, it will let us do that very effectively — that’s something we’re counting on.”