AT&T Optimistic About FirstNet Spectrum, Funding Advantages
Wednesday, March 08, 2017 | Comments

AT&T executives are optimistic about its chances of winning the contract for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) and the contract’s potential opportunities.

“We’re very excited about our overall ability to improve the speed, scale and capacity of our wireless network and that not only involves our 5G initiatives, but quite frankly, we’re very optimistic about our FirstNet initiative,” said John Stephens, AT&T senior executive vice president and chief financial officer (CFO), during a presentation at the Deutsche Bank 25th Annual Media Telecom Conference March 8.

Stephens said that the company already has 40 megahertz of unused or underused spectrum available, which if combined with the spectrum from the FirstNet contract would put the company in a great position for improving capacity and quality.

“If we’re fortunate enough to win the FirstNet contract, we’ll add another 20 megahertz of 700 MHz spectrum in 700 band 14,” Stephens said. “That puts us with 60 megahertz. That’s a dramatic advantage.

“There is a uniqueness to the FirstNet contract. It not only allows you to build a ubiquitous nationwide network on a new band, but it also gives you the funding to do that.”

Stephens added that putting the FirstNet spectrum into service would also provide an opportunity for the company to put the remainder of its spectrum inventory into service at the same time.

“That’s dramatic efficiency and effectiveness and will provide all of our customers, including our new FirstNet customers, a dramatic advantage,” Stephens said.

That in turn would give the company a national platform for its internet of things (IoT), smart cities and monitoring initiatives, as well as other initiatives related to first responders.

“So, this really is an important bid and opportunity for us, and we’re anxious to get a decision made and are optimistic we will be part of that decision,” Stephens said.

AT&T was one of three companies that publicly announced a bid for the NPSBN and is the only one of the three still remaining in the competitive range. It is unknown if companies that did not publicly announce FirstNet bids are still in the running.

Rivada Mercury, another company that publicly announced a bid, filed a pre-award protest in November alleging that it had been unlawfully excluded from the competitive range for the contract award. U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge Elaine D. Kaplan heard oral arguments in the case March 3 and is expected to make her decision in the coming weeks.

Stephens did not discuss the ongoing court case. AT&T received approval from Kaplan to intervene in the case, concluding that under court rules, the company had the right to intervene to protect “its substantial economic interest in the award of the contract at issue.”

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