GAO Denies T-Mobile Protest for Federal Solicitation for Public-Safety Cellular Service
Tuesday, May 05, 2020 | Comments

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest from T-Mobile USA regarding the terms of a request for quotations (RFQ) issued by the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) for cellular services with a “public-safety plan.”

T-Mobile argued that the solicitation fails to adequately identify the salient characteristics necessary for the brand name or equal requirement, and that the requirement is unduly restrictive of competition.

CSOSA is an independent federal agency providing probation and parole supervision services in the District of Columbia. The RFQ, issued Dec. 9, sought quotations from vendors holding General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) 70 (Information Technology) contracts. The RFQ was for the provision of cellular services on a brand name or equal basis.

The solicitation was further restricted to FSS contract holders with a “public-safety plan” under special item number (SIN) 132-53 (Wireless Mobility Solutions). The resulting task order was to consist of a one-year base period and four one-year options, each with a single contract line item number (CLIN) for cellular services with enhanced priority-type features, which the agency identifies as “AT&T FirstNet or equal.”

T-Mobile challenged the solicitation in two respects. First, the protester argued that the “technical requirements are ambiguous and fail to clearly identify the salient characteristics of the brand name item (First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)).” Second, T-Mobile contended that the “requirements for a private network with priority and pre-emptive capabilities are unduly restrictive.”

GAO agreed with T-Mobile that the solicitation’s language related to the “FirstNet brand name or equal” requirement are restrictive. However, GAO said CSOSA demonstrated a need for pre-emptive and priority cellular services to work with its public-safety agency partners.

“Given the agency’s public-safety mission, the need for such additional services is reasonable,” the GAO said.

“T-Mobile’s arguments, however, miss the mark as the protester focuses only on the agency’s need for sustained, reliable communication services but wholly fails to address the agency’s legitimate need for ensuring communication capabilities during national emergencies, when emergency services are engaged, and generally available services may be impacted,” GAO said. “Under this scenario T-Mobile presents no argument, and, as such, it has not met its burden to show that the agency’s restrictive specification was clearly unreasonable.”

The redacted version of the April 8 decision is here.

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