Commerce Secretary Ross scheduled to make FirstNet announcement tomorrow
LAS VEGAS—U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross tomorrow morning will make an announcement about FirstNet signing a 25-year contract—expected to be awarded to AT&T—to build and maintain a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN), the U.S. Department of Commerce stated in a press release today.
Ross will make the announcement at 9:30 a.m. EDT tomorrow in the Department of Commerce Auditorium, and the event will be livestreamed through the Department of Commerce web site or Facebook page, according to the press release.
On Tuesday, FirstNet board members authorized FirstNet CEO Mike Poth to finalize the contract, and Poth indicated that the deal would be completed this week.
FirstNet’s ability to complete the procurement and make an award followed U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Elaine Kaplan’s rulings on March 17 that dismissed a procurement protest by the Rivada Mercury bidding team. In the lawsuit, Rivada Mercury claimed that its bid for the right to build and maintain the NPSBN should be considered in the “competitive range” stage of the procurement, contrary to the evaluation team’s determination.
Documents from Rivada Mercury and AT&T indicate that AT&T led the only bidding team that reached the “competitive range” stage, which is why the carrier is expected to be awarded the FirstNet contract, even though the giant carrier was not mentioned by the FirstNet board or in the U.S. Department of Commerce press release. AT&T was not mentioned during the board meeting because the contract has not been finalized, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Under the terms of the FirstNet request for proposal, the chosen contractor will sign a 25-year contract to build and maintain the public-safety network in exchange for access to 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum and $6.5 billion. The contractor also will pay FirstNet at least $5.6 billion during the 25-year period, ensuring FirstNet’s long-term sustainability.
Poth said that the winning proposal meets all 16 objectives identified in the FirstNet request for proposals (RFP) and that the award will be finalized this week. The actual award date is significant, because that will mark the beginning of several key timetables associated with the FirstNet offering.
For instance, deployment plans are scheduled to be delivered to all 56 states and territories within six months of the award. After receiving the state plan, each governor will have 90 days to decide whether to accept the FirstNet plan or pursue the “opt-out” alternative, which would require the state to build the radio access network (RAN) within its borders in manner that will interoperate with the nationwide FirstNet system.
Although the Rivada Mercury lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims has been completed, Rivada Mercury—led by Rivada Networks—still has the option to appeal the case. Whether an appeal will be made has not been decided, Rivada Networks spokesman Brian Carney said on Tuesday. Rivada Networks has issued a statement expressing its intention to pursue contracts in states or territories that choose the “opt-out” alternative.
A Rivada Mercury appeal would impact FirstNet’s deployment plans only if Rivada Mercury were to win an appeal and then be selected as a superior bid to AT&T by an evaluation that already determined that Rivada Mercury offering is not in the same “competitive range” as the AT&T proposal—an unlikely scenario, according to legal and procurement sources.