The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board pushed forward on the deployment of a first-ever nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) with the approval of a Request for Proposal (RFP) and plans to release the RFP in early January.
The board's approval moves FirstNet a step closer to establishing a public-private partnership to build, operate and maintain the NPSBN.
"This is a landmark day for FirstNet and public safety," said FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson in a press release. "By approving the RFP, the Board has taken a major step forward to deliver a mission-critical network that first responders deserve -- one that is dedicated to public safety, is secure, sustainable, and will continuously utilize state of the art technology across America."
FirstNet Vice Chair Jeff Johnson noted that the organization made good on its goal to complete the RFP by the end of the year. "I commend the Board and FirstNet staff for their dedication," he said. "I also recognize the valuable contributions of our stakeholders who provided us with feedback every step of the way. FirstNet is looking forward to receiving competitive offerings from industry to build the network."
FirstNet CEO Mike Poth has promised that FirstNet will conduct a webinar detailing the RFP and release the bidding documents early in January -- "no later than the second week of January," Poth said during a press conference call after the board meeting, according to IWCE's Urgent Communications. Potential bidders will be given three weeks to ask questions about the RFP, and FirstNet plans to provide responses to those questions within 30 days, Poth said.
Proposals will be due in May 2016, after which the bids will be evaluated and a winning proposal will be selected, the publication said. Key criteria to be considered include offerers' past performance, proposed network coverage and capacity, the ability to build an ecosystem, and whether the business-management proposal ensures that the nationwide network can be sustained in the long term.
While FirstNet's RFP will be open to all participants, analysts from Evercore ISI have speculated that Verizon (NYSE: VZ) could end up partnering with FirstNet. An Oct. 19 webinar hosted by FirstNet, where it laid out key criteria in selecting a partner, reinforced the analysts' earlier theory in March that Verizon would be best suited to take on the FirstNet network.
Verizon's existing 700 MHz spectrum is compatible with the public safety network's upper 700 MHz block spectrum, it has an existing relationship with the federal government, it has a "well-developed rural partnership program" and its nationwide performance all point to signs that it would make a logical partner, Jonathan Schildkraut, senior managing director of equity research at Evercore, told FierceWirelessTech at the time. Verizon didn't comment.
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