It’s not exactly new – Rivada Networks shut down claims last summer about its intentions around 5G and nationalization, something it also did the previous year when confusion reigned. But given its prominence in the story line, it’s probably worth repeating: The company says it’s not interested in a nationalized 5G network.
The idea of a nationalized 5G network made headlines again after the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a Request for Information (RFI) that set off a string of protests from both political parties. Some accounts evoked earlier reports that tied these concepts to Rivada.
Rivada Senior VP Brian Carney likes to call them the “vampire hunters,” because, it’s been said, this idea of a nationalized 5G network keeps coming back from the dead. And in this case, like a vampire, it doesn’t exist.
Rivada is interested in operating a wholesale wireless network, which it believes would have “huge advantages” for the wireless industry, in terms of competition and consumers, according to Carney. That’s why the RFI the DoD issued is interesting – because the DoD is looking for ways to share spectrum. “We think a wholesale network is a great way to share spectrum,” he said.
Rivada does not own or control any spectrum licenses itself, which is often part of the story line when companies talk about specializing in a wholesale offering. LightSquared, the precursor to Ligado Networks, talked about operating a wholesale network many years ago. Nowadays, operating a wholesale network is potentially part of Dish Network’s strategy, as well retail as it builds out a fourth facilities-based network in the U.S. Carney declined to comment on anything Dish might be doing.
Some might remember Rivada as competing for the contract to build the nation’s first LTE network dedicated for public safety, a contract that ultimately went to AT&T. Rivada had lined up some big-name vendors to support its plan, including Ericsson, Nokia, Intel Security, Fujitsu, Harris and Black & Veatch. Rivada now employs about 50; its CEO Declan Ganley has been residing in his homeland of Ireland during the pandemic.
“We don’t think the government should own, operate or fund 5G networks, wholesale or otherwise,” and Rivada expects to tell the DoD as much in its response to the RFI, Carney told FierceWireless. “We’re often accused of being part of some conspiracy to nationalize 5G. We do not want to nationalize anything. We are opposed to nationalization in general, and especially in wireless."
The company also happens to agree with a long list of signatories that expressed support for lawmakers who argue for a competitive, private sector-driven approach to 5G rather than one led by the U.S. government.
“We are opposed government-run networks and taxpayer money going to build out networks,” Carney said. “We would love the opportunity to build a wholesale wireless network. We are not asking for any unique privileges. We’re not asking for exclusive rights to build 5G. We’re not asking for free spectrum. None of those things sound like good policy ideas to us.”
He said the company is actively pursuing opportunities to work with partners that have spectrum to build a wholesale wireless network, whether that’s in the U.S. or outside. The problem with bidding in U.S. FCC spectrum auctions is they’re typically set up for the convenience of the biggest carriers. “They don’t lend themselves readily to new entrants," he added.
Longtime Republican political operative Karl Rove is an investor in Rivada, whose board includes former Sprint executive Joseph Euteneuer, who stepped aside from the role of co-CEO and CFO Americas at Rivada in 2017.