AT&T officially throws hat into the ring for FirstNet

AT&T (NYSE: T) had indicated it would be an aggressive participant in the FirstNet bidding process, and CFO and Senior Executive Vice President John Stephens made it official Thursday during the company's second-quarter earnings call, saying AT&T has submitted a bid for the FirstNet business.

In so doing, AT&T joined two other entities that have publicly disclosed their participation in the RFP process. Last month, Rivada Mercury announced it had brought together a team that includes Ericsson, Nokia, Intel Security and others to bid on the chance to build a nationwide LTE network dedicated to public safety. PdvWireless, headed by wireless industry veterans Brian McAuley and Morgan O'Brien, also revealed that it has assembled a consortium to build and operate a public safety broadband network.

Whoever wins FirstNet's business will get a 25-year contract to use 20 megahertz of 700 MHz beachfront 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.

Stephens made his remarks during prepared statements detailing AT&T's spectrum strategy. "While we are not going to elaborate, AT&T has applied to be a participant in the broadcast spectrum auction and has also submitted a bid in the FirstNet process that is currently underway," Stephens said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

He also provided an update on where AT&T stands with its current spectrum. "We have about 150 MHz of spectrum in our portfolio today, including 40 MHz of relatively untapped AWS and WCS spectrum," Stephens said. "We have the best, most balanced spectrum portfolio in the industry. Adding spectrum is the most effective way to add capacity. This year, we expect to add 35,000 LTE carriers compared to the 18,000 deployed last year. We also continue to make smaller spectrum deals to round out our coverage and redeploy spectrum once dedicated to 2G and 3G."

At the beginning of this year, AT&T's senior EVP of Technology and Operations John Donovan said during a Citi investor conference that FirstNet represents a good opportunity that AT&T views as a "rare event" and one the operator would pursue aggressively.

FirstNet, which hopes to name an award by November, said it isn't revealing the names or number of entities that submitted bids by the May 31 deadline.

Verizon has remained mostly mum on the subject, but analysts at Evercore ISI have pegged Verizon as being particularly well suited to take on FirstNet, where Verizon's existing 700 MHz spectrum is compatible with the public safety network's upper 700 MHz block spectrum.

For more:
- see IWCE's Urgent Communications article
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript

Related articles:
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FirstNet closes deadline for proposals, moves onto evaluation phase
AT&T's desire to bid on FirstNet could pique Verizon's interest
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