AT&T Expects Work Orders for FirstNet Buildout in Early 2018
Thursday, November 09, 2017 | Comments

AT&T expects to receive work orders for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) in early 2018, AT&T Chief Financial Officer (CFO) John Stephens said at the Wells Fargo Media & Telecoms Conference Nov. 8.

The work orders will follow the conclusion of the opt-in/out process, Stephens said. State governors have until Dec. 28 to decide whether to accept the state plan provided to them by AT&T and FirstNet. So far, 31 states and territories have accepted their state plans.

“We’re 31 of 31 so far, and we’re respectful of that and we’re humbled by that responsibility, and we’re also very pleased,” Stephens said.

If a state does not make a decision by the Dec. 28 deadline, it will automatically opt in to the state plan provided by AT&T and FirstNet.

“Because of very busy schedules by legislators, leadership of states, the governors and so forth, many of them may choose to focus on more pressing needs of their states and just go through the automatic opt-in process,” Stephens said.

So far, AT&T has spent about $200 million on FirstNet and has established a dedicated sales force for the network, Stephens said. Chris Sambar, AT&T FirstNet lead and other AT&T staff, traveled to Houston and Florida following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to help with recovery efforts and show first responders what AT&T can do, Stephens said.

Most of that $200 million the company has already spent on FirstNet will be recoverable from the $6.5 billion AT&T receives as part of the FirstNet contract, Stephens said. He did not specify how AT&T has spent that money so far.

“We just decided to spend it ahead of time to get ahead of the game and be ready to hit the ground running,” Stephens said. “And we felt like we can make that investment and fund it ahead of time. But it was well worth the money so we could, so to speak, hit the ground running and serve everyone right away.”

Stephens also reiterated the company’s plan to light up other spectrum as it builds out the FirstNet network, something that will lead to great efficiencies for the company.

“When we’re climbing that tower, we can put up 700 MHz, AWS-3 (Advanced Wireless Service) and WCS (Wireless Communications Service) or whatever spectrum we have available to us,” Stephens said. “That will dramatically improve our coverage and our quality and our depth of in-service spectrum all the while getting a very large co-pay from the federal government to do this.”

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