FirstNet halts negotiations with BTOP recipients
FirstNet has stopped negotiating with Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant recipients and is awaiting word from some to determine whether their public-safety LTE projects can be integrated into the FirstNet nationwide broadband network for first responders, according to FirstNet General Manager Bill D’Agostino.
“We stopped negotiations on [Nov. 15], and we did not ask for any additional extensions,” D’Agostino said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications conducted at the LTE North America conference in Dallas.
To date, only two BTOP recipients—LA-RICS and the state of New Mexico—have signed a spectrum-lease agreement with FirstNet that would allow them to use the 20 MHz of contiguous 700 MHz broadband spectrum licensed to FirstNet. Although negotiations with BTOP entities have stopped, these entities still have the option of agreeing to language that FirstNet offered as of Nov. 15, D’Agostino said.
“There’s some that may [agree to a spectrum-lease deal]; that’s still to be determined,” he said, noting that such deals likely would be considered by the FirstNet board during its meeting scheduled for Dec. 17.
One BTOP recipient that will not have a spectrum-lease agreement is the city of Charlotte, N.C., which was unable to reach a deal with FirstNet in August and did not reopen negotiations. Until Nov. 15, FirstNet conducted negotiations with Adams County, Colo., the state of New Jersey, the state of Mississippi and Motorola Solutions, the BTOP recipient and vendor for the Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications Systems Authority (BayRICS), which was seeking a public-safety LTE system for the San Francisco Bay area.
Shortly after Congress enacted the law creating FirstNet, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) froze all of the public-safety BTOP projects, so that FirstNet could ensure that these initial efforts would integrate into the nationwide vision. Early this year, FirstNet opened negotiations with the BTOP recipients, citing a desire to have operating public-safety LTE networks that would provide FirstNet with real-world information that could be used for nationwide network planning.
However, none of the three entities that had proceeded furthest with their public-safety LTE efforts and had received equipment for their projects—Charlotte, Adams County and Mississippi—have spectrum-lease agreements yet. D’Agostino declined to speculate on what would be done with the LTE equipment already purchased in association with projects that are not realized.
“The first step will be to get through the final decisions about the BTOPs, which will be [made] in a board meeting. Then, those that have equipment on the ground will have to work with NTIA on how that’s going to be addressed, so that’s not going to be in our purview.”
Meanwhile, FirstNet will focus its efforts on states that are best prepared to be part of the overall FirstNet deployment, D’Agostino said.
“The BTOPs will kind of close down—[although] those that come through, come through,” he said. “The next phase for us is to turn our energy toward the whole broad definition of what it takes to opt in and to present a state plan that a governor can accept or make a decision on.
“Our hope is that there will be some states that are obviously more ready to go than others, and we’ll start to move those as quickly as humanly possible. That’s what we call early movers.”