AT&T rival targets FirstNet opt-out states

Photo credit: John Roman Images / 

FirstNet and AT&T took their next big step to develop plans for the nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders, making individual network plans for states and territories available online.

The plans, said FirstNet and AT&T in a joint statement on June 19, were released via online portal the same day.

The legislation authorizing FirstNet allows states to run their own systems on the spectrum carved out for the network, provided they are interoperable with the FirstNet core. Now begins the state-by-state deliberations on whether to opt into FirstNet or develop a complementary network.

When FirstNet awarded AT&T the contract for the 25-year, $6.5 billion network, a group led by Rivada Networks, which had protested the contract but lost, vowed something of a house-to-house competitive battle in the states for networking contracts.

In the hours after the decision, the consortium -- which includes Harris Corp., Intel, Fujitsu, Ericsson and Nokia -- said it would work directly with states and territories developing their own interoperable Radio Access Network solution. Under FirstNet's rules, states can opt out and use RANs if they get federal approval for their plans.

According to the AT&T/FirstNet statement on June 19, states and territories have 90 days to decide whether to opt out of the larger network in favor of their own plans.

If a state's governor' decides to opt into the plan, FirstNet and AT&T said that would "open the door" for them to immediately begin service delivery to the state's public safety community. They said the opt-in would also give dedicated access to AT&T's LTE network and transfer financial, operational and technical risks of building, maintaining and upgrading the network to FirstNet for the next 25 years.

Eight states, said Brian Carney, Rivada's vice president for corporate communications, have issued Requests for Proposals for alternative network plans.

Rivada, he said, is in the process of responding to all of them and already has a contract with New Hampshire.

"We look forward to working with any state that is seeking an alternative," he said. "We expect more when they see the costs of AT&T's network."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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