Pennsylvania becomes ninth state to seek RAN bids as a FirstNet alternative
Pennsylvania has issued a request for proposal (RFP) seeking bids to build and maintain a statewide LTE radio access network (RAN) to serve public-safety users in the state, if its governor decides to pursue the “opt-out” alternative to accepting FirstNet’s deployment plan for the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN).
Pennsylvania State Police is heading the procurement for the “Commonwealth Public Safety Broadband Network” (CPSBN), which only will result in a contract if the governor pursues the “opt-out” alternative and the state’s plan received multiple federal approvals. Questions about the procurement must be submitted by July 28, and bids are due on Sept. 7, according to information on Pennsylvania’s online procurement portal.
“No funds have been appropriated by the Pennsylvania Legislature to enter into an agreement with a supplier of goods and services described in this RFP,” according to the RFP. “The CPSBN will need to be financially self-sustaining for the anticipated lifespan of the network.”
Financial self-sustainment is emphasized throughout the Pennsylvania RFP, as has been the case in many other states conducting such procurements. Under the FirstNet state plan, AT&T would build the NPSBN within the state at no cost to the state, although subscribing public-safety entities would pay usage fees and device costs. Under an “opt-out” scenario, the state ultimately is financially responsible for the buildout of the RAN within its borders, as well as for maintaining and upgrading the network as the FirstNet system evolves during the next 25 years.
Pennsylvania is the ninth state to issue an RFP in an effort to select a vendor to build and maintain an LTE RAN as an alternative to accepting the deployment plan released by FirstNet and AT&T—FirstNet’s nationwide contractor—on June 19.
New Hampshire last year selected Rivada Networks as its alternative vendor. Michigan also completed its RFP evaluation and announced that Rivada Networks tallied the highest score among vendors. In addition, six other states have issued RFP seeking vendor proposals for an alternative to FirstNet’s state plan: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
To date, no state has provided any indication that its governor will choose the “opt-out” alternative.
Four states have accepted FirstNet deployment plans released on June 19, but those plans do not include crucial information that governors need to know before making an “opt-out” decision, including the payments that they would have to make to FirstNet for use of the FirstNet LTE core and the 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum licensed to FirstNet. Those data points are expected to be in FirstNet’s final state plans that likely will be released in September, although no final date for their release has been announced.
After receiving the final state plans, governors will have 90 days to decide to make the “opt-in/opt-out” decision for their states and territories. If a governor takes no action on the matter, the state will be treated in the same manner as an “opt-in” state, with AT&T building and maintaining the network in the state for the next 25 years.