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FirstNet board sets March 29 special meeting, expected to approve AT&T procurement win

Urgent Communications
By Donny Jackson

March 23, 2017

FirstNet today announced that its board members will conduct a special meeting next Wednesday, when a vote is expected that would set the stage for the AT&T bidding team to be awarded with a 25-year deal to build and maintain the much-anticipated nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN).

FirstNet board members will convene via teleconference beginning at 9:00 a.m. EST for a meeting that is expected to last about 30 minutes, according to the meeting notice. No agenda accompanied the meeting notice as of publication time, but the board last week indicated that it would call a special meeting for the purpose of completing the final stages of the procurement process for the nationwide contract.

After the expected board vote, the formal award to AT&T is expected to be executed quickly, according to a source familiar with the process. It is unclear whether the award could be completed on the same day as the board meeting.

State and public-safety representatives are monitoring the award date closely, because the award is the event that starts the deployment timetable for the network. According to the RFP, FirstNet is scheduled to provide deployment plans for all 56 states and territories six months after the award. After the state plans are distributed, each governor will have 90 days to accept the FirstNet plan or choose to pursue the “opt-out” alternative, which calls for the state to build out the radio access network (RAN) within its borders.

FirstNet board members decided that they would conduct a special meeting during the board’s regular meeting on March 14. At the time, the board was awaiting a ruling on Rivada Mercury’s lawsuit protesting the FirstNet procurement finding that Rivada Mercury would not be considered in the “competitive range” stage of the bidding process. AT&T was the only bidder to qualify for the “competitive range” stage, according to documents from Rivada Mercury and AT&T.

After Kaplan’s ruling, Rivada Networks—the lead company in the Rivada Mercury consortium—indicated that it plans to pursue public-safety LTE network contracts with states and territories that want to pursue the “opt-out” alternative. In addition, that “we are considering our options for appeal,” according to Rivada Networks co-CEO Declan Ganley.

Procurement sources indicate that awarding the contract to AT&T in the near term—some sources have speculated that it could be done within a week or two—is legal, even if there is an appeal. But one consideration for the FirstNet board is that all of the post-award activities would be extremely difficult to “undo” and replicate, if Rivada Mercury were to win an appeal of today’s court decisions and eventually emerge as FirstNet’s nationwide contractor, according to multiple sources. 

Of course, that scenario could become a reality only if Rivada Mercury were to win an appeal and be selected as the superior bid to AT&T by evaluators that already determined that Rivada Mercury offering is not in the same “competitive range” as the AT&T proposal. If the FirstNet board is confident that today’s court rulings will be upheld or that AT&T would emerge as the procurement winner, then proceeding with the nationwide award would be appropriate, according to legal and procurement sources.

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