FirstNet Highlights Economic Value to Carriers, Vendors
Friday, August 28, 2015 | Comments

First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) President TJ Kennedy justified the economic viability of the nationwide public-safety broadband network to industry suppliers during the entity’s second Industry Day Aug. 27.

Kennedy highlighted the economic value of the FirstNet spectrum compared with buying spectrum at auction, saying FirstNet partners could see a return on investment much faster than companies that buy spectrum. Most spectrum bought at auction must be cleared of incumbent users with the relocation costs generally paid by the spectrum purchaser. The 20 megahertz of 700 MHz held by FirstNet can be used right away once a state opts into the network, Kennedy said.

Kennedy also outlined the huge amount of cash that is paid upfront for spectrum in an auction. “The opportunity for a successful business model with FirstNet is faster than other opportunities,” he said.

The event, attended by about 400 people either in person or via a webcast, provided the most detail FirstNet officials have offered about the economics of the FirstNet network. With the 600 MHz incentive auction looming in March, Kennedy was clearly talking to carriers that might not submit a proposal to FirstNet and choose to participate in the incentive auction instead. However, FirstNet has not yet released a business plan and has said many economic and technical specifics cannot be disclosed until the final RFP.

Analysts have said that the timing of the FirstNet network buildout could be a concern for a potential carrier partner. FirstNet plans to release the final request for proposals (RFP) by the end of the year, but officials declined to say when bids would be due. Sue Swenson, chairwoman of the FirstNet board of directors, said during a Senate hearing the network should be launched by 2022.

Kennedy said in addition to the $6.5 billion to help build the network, FirstNet has the ability to charge public-safety users fees and sign commercial leasing agreements to further monetize the spectrum. “Over time the public safety set of user fees will grow,” he said. “Much of the spectrum will still be available for commercial users. The overall cost to public safety will be the best it can be.”

In comments to FirstNet on the draft RFP and special notice, industry analyst Andrew Seybold said the RFP isn’t clear on how vendors could use the secondary spectrum. “Nowhere in the RFP is the amount of spectrum that will be available to the vendors for secondary usage specified, nor is there a limitation on the amount of spectrum that can be used by the public-safety community during normal (non-incident) times,” his comments said.

Kennedy said FirstNet’s main priority is the public-safety community, and it plans to meet 16 objectives for public safety. Suppliers that respond to the RFP should consider the objectives in their proposals. The winning vendors will have the opportunity to lead public safety’s adoption of mobile broadband.

Terrie Callahan, contracting officer supporting FirstNet, outlined the information that will be in Sections L and M of the RFP. Section L includes instructions, conditions and notices about the FirstNet acquisition process. Section M contains the evaluation factors and process.

Seybold said in his comments to the draft RFP that potential vendors need to know what criteria will be used to judge the respondents before the final RFP is released. “Responding to an RFP of this magnitude and with the billions of dollars in cost implications will require a significant investment by vendors that choose to respond,” he said. “Without knowing which are the most important points for consideration by FirstNet and the federal government, some are not willing to make the investment.”

In addition, Glenn Zimmerman, senior security specialist, said FirstNet in September will release a special notice on cybersecurity that will seek feedback on cybersecurity objectives and the deliverables required to demonstrate an offeror’s ability to meet those objectives.

“The key is innovation,” Zimmerman said. “Do not be constrained by what you’ve done before. We want to look at doing things a different way. FirstNet will be the best and most secure network we can possibly make it, but how well we accomplish that will be dependent on the quality, quantity and level of innovation you can bring to bear.”

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On 8/28/15, Provider said:
FirstNet let potential prime contractors know that it would be wise to form full national capability teams. The 16 objectives have not and will not change. The only thing stopping primes from forming teams is their own internal bureaucracies.

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