Who will Bid on FirstNet?

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That’s right, with the RFP coming out in December, probably on 12/31/2015. We are all anticipating the release. For so many reasons. Who will bid on it? Who will risk it? Who will take a chance on building the nationwide LTE system for public safety? Is it real or did the government just waste tens of millions of dollars? I built a hypothetical list just for you. We talk about this all the time, especially at work because of the $6.5B, yes, billion dollars that is up for grabs. I know, they had $7B, but honestly, how much will trickle through the government before the contractors and OEMs see any of it?

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Well, I hope it is real because it is a lot of work. What’s that, how did they waste all that money? Well, first, FirstNet spent a ton of money putting together their group and going through several people to get the stability it needed. Remember this; government can’t just go and build with investor money. You have to play nice with all the government agencies that want favors in return. Remember that everyone has a kingdom to protect. One thing they should know is that this would bring a lot of work to every state and every industry.

Let’s not just look at the federal money spent, the states spent a crap ton of hours preparing for this and trying to figure to build a case to opt out. I don’t think any of them will but they spent the cycles trying to build a case to get out of it. Why? That’s their job, to weigh both sides so they can make an educated decision.

As for spending so far, look at the road shows , the testing, the labs, the promotional work, the states hiring consultants (which does not come out of the federal money but your state taxes), the congress and senate burning time on this, the companies that are preparing to respond. All this is money and time spent for something that we all hope will happen.

Sorry, that is off the point, let’s get back to the bidding contenders. Who can take this on? Who is interested? Well, I have built a hypothetical list of groups that I know of. Now understand that some people don’t want to bid on it. I built this list because we have been talking about this all week with the RFP coming up.

OEMs – like Alcatel-Lucent/Nokia and Ericsson. Honestly, it’s too big and I don’t think they can do what FirstNet wants. The draft RFP dog-tags_clearbackgrondmade it clear that FirstNet wants to partner with a carrier for roaming purposes. It will also be more of a build, operate, maintain, and handoff model which the OEMs don’t want to deal with. Think about it, would you want to finance a network like this just to sell equipment? That’s what Sprint is looking for, how is that working out?

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System Integrators – who? I made a list below

  • Rivada – they seem to think that they can build a relationship with the carriers to use the FirstNet spectrum. They have a plan to let the carriers bid on the spectrum to generate revenue. Cool idea in concept, I wish them the best.
  • General Dynamics – They want to and they are big enough to do it. But, can they fit the model? Can they manage this without getting a black eye? Can they work a deal for roaming?
  • Motorola – Will their deal with Ericsson make them a contender? Did LA-RICS give them a black eye or show they got experience? Motorola used to be a power house in public safety, in fact, they were the team to beat in wireless communications at one time. That’s right, they did everything from car radios to satellite to paging to cell systems to cell phones to Nextel. They were the team to beat in public safety. You could not walk into a site without seeing the batwings exposed on equipment. If you don’t know what I mean, then you are too young to understand. By the way, do you still see the Motorola Logo in sites? Of course, but not like you did 20 years ago, you know I’m right! They also did networking equipment in the days of framed relay and modems, (if you’re asking what that is, use Google to look it up, again, I am in my 50s, get over it). The flaw I see here is that Motorola did not learn from the carriers by partnering with one OEM, how stupid? All the carriers knew better. They know that you need 2 or 3 OEMs to play it safe and keep innovation alive and make it competitive. I say that they made an obvious mistake right up front, in my opinion.
  • IBM – Why not? They are big enough and I would say they could do as well as Motorola. They would build processes to handle all of this and they could make it happen and they could build the relationships with the carriers as well as anyone on this list.
  • Black & Veatch – I believe they could do it but would they want to when they could just as easily do regional work for any of the above? They are positioned well for the deployment, but FirstNet wants so much more than to deploy a network, too much for Black and Veatch to want to deal with. I think they know what they are good at, managing deployments, they don’t want to get in over their head with the operate and maintain.
  • Others – Who else could do this? I am sure there are plenty that when they look at it they think they could, just like the little engine going up the mountain, “I think I can, I think I can” but when they read the RFP, they will see it’s so much more than deploy, it deploy, operate, maintain, provide immediate coverage. That’s a huge plate to fill for any one company especially when FirstNet wants a SPOC, (single point of contact).

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What about carriers? Here is the target audience for what they are looking for. Voila! You have the target integrator for FirstNet because you have an instant carrier. This is what FirstNet wants, at this moment in time. This is what I see as the master plan. The RFP will have all the requirements to build a system on top of a system using that valuable spectrum. Too bad the carriers are having 2 auctions prior to the actual deployment. You see they now have spectrum. Let’s list them out one by one.

  • Verizon – this is the target but does Verizon want to do this? It doesn’t appear so. They already make a ton of money off government phone contracts and they have a government division. They seem to have a pretty solid and profitable business. Do they want to do this for some spectrum that they may or may not be able to use? Ask them, I believe that they know if the system has an issue or if the relationship sours they will lose more in the long run with public image and future government contracts.
  • AT&T – Here is a contender that may sign up because they love more spectrum, they need more spectrum, and they appear to be interested. They could do it but could they meet the land mass coverage that is required of FirstNet? I don’t think they could and I don’t think that they want to, but if they sign up they will be required to. Is it worth it?
  • Sprint – Seriously, Sprint, don’t they have to get going with the densification project after cutting over $2B from their budget? They don’t want to deal with anything like this right now.
  • T-Mobile – They won’t want to cover all that FirstNet has and chances are good they don’t want to deal with it. It is a large offer. Too large for them to really take seriously at this time. They certainly don’t want to cover all the landmass that will be required.
  • CCA members – They probably can’t cover the land mass without T-Mobile and/or Sprint, too bad. I think that this group would be awesome at this,. Seriously, if they could step up and take this on. I know that CCA probably couldn’t manage this on their own, they would need help, but I have a list above of plenty of system integrators that would be happy to help.
  • T-Mobile with all the members of CCA – Awesome! I would love to see this happen because CCA could cover most of what T-Mobile can’t, and these teams could do it! I also believe that the spectrum would be very valuable to the CCA members. Seriously, they could use it since they don’t get many breaks on bidding with the FCC. Deep pockets generally win. T-Mobile, again, won’t want to deal with this but if CCA could build a team then T-Mobile could step back and concentrate on the network whilst CCA manages the build and integration while T-Mobile could operate and maintain. All that for some extra spectrum and $6B. Suddenly this team would make a play for #2 with coverage if they looked like one system. Hey, just my thoughts here.
  • AT&T with CCA Members – Here is an ideal situation, again, in my opinion. AT&T already has interest and they have the network and the experience. CCA could fill the holes. They could cover the landmass that AT&T can’t or doesn’t want to. What a concept. Could AT&T and CCA work together, who knows! I would like to see it but it probably won’t happen. I think this is what should happen since it could really change the landscape of the industry. One more thing, it would really put Verizon in a tough spot because these 2 together would over shadow Verizon’s network. T-Mobile, being a member of CCA, probably would not let this happen. Sprint is also a member of CCA, but they have their own problems to deal with, they might protest but I don’t think that they would get in the way.

Did I miss anyone? Let me know below the links. I just think we need to see that FirstNet really limited their options by asking for a single company to deploy. That’s what happens with you only want to deal with the SPOC. They will soon realize how hard that can be, to only get information from one person. If you’re like me and every other analyst I know, you will soon realize to listen to many sources before making a decision. Even then you can be wrong, but you have done your due diligence.

There is one option I didn’t mention. The states could build it. If this went back to the states, what would happen? I think we can tell the active states would kick ass. I mean the big boys like Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, and many more. They want to move ahead and move now. I believe they don’t want to wait. They seem to have an exact idea of how to deploy. Unfortunately they don’t see any good way to opt out, it could lead to disaster. They also are hoping to use their backhaul assets for the system, but if the carriers are used, that probably won’t happen.

By the way, I am looking forward to getting a ton of small cell and DAS work from this in about 3 years, seriously, there is a lot of work coming if this happens. Oh, there I said it again, the big “IF” word again. I really hope it happens soon.

I like you all to know that I just don’t make this up. I actually read a lot of articles. I have a list of my sources for you. That is why there are so many links in these posts.










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  1. Many of us who are both in communications and public safety are looking for a gigantic white elephant to show up. Lack of reasonable standards in the bidding process, dependence on carriers for roaming (non public safety built sotes) and a technology that is already being replaced.

    Not a recipe for success. Also a consideration is the cost to subscribers, as well as coverage. Nationwide coverage often leaves out giant holes in coverage.

    Cost? Public safety budgets in many areas are already stretched thin.


    • Blake,
      I agree, the budgets are not going to allow many rescue services to use the devices that could be offered nt his. It will take more than a few grants if the billing is done on monthly basis.
      As for the bidding process, I see a model like the carriers would use, only on a national level, not on a regional level. It will be interesting to see how it will roll out.


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