FirstNet still on track to award contract by November

After receiving and answering hundreds of questions about the process, FirstNet is on track to make a final award for the nation's first dedicated public safety broadband network by November, officials said at an Industry Day event last week.

james mitchell firstnet

 Mitchell (Source: FirstNet)

That award date could arrive sooner but that's currently what the schedule dictates, according to James Mitchell, director, program management officer at FirstNet. Participants are free to ask questions all the way up until the day of the award, he said.

FirstNet received 402 questions on its final RFP, which was less than the draft RFP, which drew more than 600 questions. Most of the 402 questions were administrative, followed by technical issues, he said. All of the questions have been answered internally, but if there's a delay in answers being released, it's due to making sure the answers are correct and documents are clarified, he said.

No red flags were raised in the process, but something that came up repeatedly was a request for capability statements, which are due March 31.

FirstNet Contracting Officer Terrie Callahan said capability statements are not required but strongly encouraged, adding that none of the information in the capability statements will be made public. "It's a great opportunity for you to come in and provide us with information to demonstrate the key topics and the key areas that are in the objectives that we have," she said.

Mike Poth, CEO of FirstNet, said his goals throughout the process are to build a customer-centric organization that serves as a true partner to both industry and safety. He also wants to grow shareholder value -- "my shareholders are public safety," he said --and develop a compelling business model that will be attractive to the partner.

"It is a unique partnership," he said, noting that the 20 MHz of spectrum, considered beachfront property, that the winning bidder gets access to is considered more valuable than the $6.5 billion in cash that is also part of the deal.

The release of the final RFP in January came after more than a year of dialogue with public safety and industry on the objectives and scope of the RFP for the FirstNet network. Tier 1 wireless operators are likely bidders, as well as aggregators and vendors. AT&T (NYSE: T) has said it plans to pursue the FirstNet opportunity aggressively.

For more:
- see this FCW article
- see IWCE's Urgent Communications article

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