FirstNet bags second customer in as many days as Wyoming opts in

Firefighters training a hose on a fire
The nationwide network for first responders secured its first two customers this week.

FirstNet bagged its second state customer—and its second in as many days—on Tuesday when Wyoming opted in to use AT&T’s network to provide service for its first responders.

Wyoming Governor Matthew Mead’s office announced the decision, saying FirstNet “will transform the way Wyoming’s fire, police, EMS and other public safety personnel communicate and share information.” FirstNet will facilitate secure communication and data transmissions during emergencies and large events, the state said, will enhance network coverage in rural areas, and will drive infrastructure investment and create jobs across the state.

“FirstNet will be an asset for emergency personnel across Wyoming,” Mead said in the announcement. “This is a tool that allows for better communication and faster response.”

Wyoming followed the lead of Virginia, which on Monday became the first state to agree to use FirstNet’s offering. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe held a ceremonial letter signing Tuesday at FirstNet headquarters in Reston, Virginia, to mark the occasion.

Locking up Wyoming is a small step for FirstNet, to be sure: It’s the least populated state in the union, and 54 states and other regions have yet to sign on. But the early traction is surely encouraging for AT&T and its partners.

FirstNet wrapped up a two-day kickoff meeting outside Dallas a month ago that was held largely to make its case to those potential customers and answer questions.

The FirstNet organization was created in 2012, but the U.S. Department of Commerce didn’t award the contract to a service provider until March 2017, when it granted AT&T the right to build the nation’s first network dedicated to first responders. Rivada Networks, which lost the FirstNet contract to AT&T, said last month that it continues to respond to states that issue RFPs seeking vendors willing to build and maintain a statewide public safety LTE radio access network (RAN) that would be interoperable with FirstNet’s offering.

Under terms of the FirstNet contract, AT&T will get access to FirstNet’s 20 MHz of 700 MHz low-band spectrum and $6.5 billion for designing and operating the nationwide network for federal, state and local authorities, with the right to sell excess capacity on the system. AT&T will spend roughly $40 billion over the life of the 25-year contract to deploy and maintain the network, the Department of Commerce said, integrating its network assets with FirstNet.

Meanwhile, Rivada continues to market its alternative to FirstNet, and governmental agencies in Michigan and New Hampshire have recommended those respective states analyze Rivada's bid alongside FirstNet's. States have a legal right to opt out of FirstNet’s service, and Rivada is positioning its offering as an alternative. FirstNet still has a long way to go, but Rivada will face an increasingly uphill battle if FirstNet can build on its early momentum.

This report was updated July 14 to clarify the status of Rivada's bids in Michigan and New Hampshire.