Yesterday’s long-awaited request for proposal (RFP) for the US First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) public safety network will provide the government’s selected carrier or contractor with $6.5 billion to support the project buildout, in addition to access to 20 MHz of spectrum, but the winning bidder will be required to pay FirstNet a minimum of $6.75 billion over the life of the 25-year deal.
After the RFP is carefully reviewed the industry will be able to identify what the approximate final price tag will be for the successful bidder. The cost of constructing and maintaining the network is estimated by many experts to be in the tens of billions of dollars over the long term.
The project’s bid deadline is April 29. FirstNet estimates that it will award the contract in the fourth quarter of 2016.
FirstNet, an independent agency with the National Telecommunications and Information Council, will provide the winning company access to 20 MHz of contiguous 700 MHz spectrum, allowing it to gain new public-safety customers on a priority basis and secondary commercial users.
The contractor, according to the RFP, would pay FirstNet at least $80 million during each of the first five years of the contract, with the payment amount increasing in years six to 10 to $130 million. The annual payments would then be increased to $205 million in year 11 of the agreement, to $305 million in year 16 of the contract, and a $430 million payment would be required during each of the last five years of the contract.
FirstNet, however, said that the bidder can sweeten the deal by offering “payments above these minimum payment thresholds,”
The payment plan, nonetheless, offers the bidder the ability to assign a net-revenue value they project to receive from each of the 56 states and territories. If any of those participants decide to opt out by deploying their ow LTE radio access network (RAN), the contractor’s payment amount to FirstNet will be adjusted to reflect the lost revenue opportunity.
The network and devices will be branded as FirstNet, with FirstNet maintaining oversight, but the contractor will be responsible for marketing, product management, sales and distribution, customer care, and network deployment, operation and evolution.
All bidders are required to provide a nationwide core network and radio access network services, in addition to “backhaul, aggregation, and the use of national transport networks and operation centers; a device ecosystem; use of network infrastructure; deployable capabilities; use of operational and business support systems; an applications ecosystem; network services; and the integration, maintenance, operational services, and ongoing evolution of these systems required to function fully as an operational wireless 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards-based Long Term Evolution (LTE) NPSBN,” according to the RFP.
The release of the RFP answers many questions, but FirstNet will be holding a two-hour webinar Jan. 15 at 1:00 p.m. EST to go over key elements of the RFP.
For Participants: URL: https://www.mymeetings.com/nc/join/, Conference number: PWXW6610631, Audience passcode: 1727865.
“This is an opportunity to revolutionize how first responders do their job, and we appreciate the valuable public safety feedback we have received to make this happen,” FirstNet President TJ Kennedy said in a statement. “FirstNet is thrilled to issue an RFP that will promote innovation and deliver the best value to the public safety community.”
“We have developed this RFP in an open forum to create a ‘first of its kind’ public-private partnership for the network,” said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth. “As we move into the next phase of the process, we look forward to receiving competitive offerings to deliver the best possible network for public safety.”
The interoperable Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) will carry voice, data, message and video traffic, and be capable of supporting encrypted communications such as VPNs.
Prior to yesterday’s RFP release, a number of analysts said they believed Verizon was the front-runner for the contract. At a telecommunications conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, however, John Donovan, AT&T’s senior executive vice president of technology and operations, said his company will “aggressively” go after FirstNet deployment as well.