The New Hampshire FirstNet opt out decision announced today will leave at least one state out of AT&T’s plan to build a nationwide mobile broadband public safety network. Thirty-five states and territories have chosen AT&T to build their FirstNet public safety network and until now, no state had not chosen AT&T.
New Hampshire previously said that if it were to opt out, it would use Rivada Networks, an unfamiliar name in the U.S. wireless market, to build its public safety network. Remaining states and territories have until later this month to make their FirstNet decisions.
According to a news report, New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu said the FirstNet opt out decision would give the state more control over the public safety network project.
New Hampshire FirstNet Opt Out
The FirstNet public safety network will operate in 20 MHz of dedicated spectrum in the 700 MHz band. In states that chose AT&T, that carrier will be able to use the spectrum for commercial traffic when it is not needed by the public safety community.
Rivada offered New Hampshire a different arrangement. The company said it would not offer service directly to end users on the network but instead would sell service on a wholesale basis to retail service providers. Rivada expects that approach to enable the company to offer service to authorized public safety network users at just one cent per user per month.
AT&T has not said whether it would sell connectivity on FirstNet radio access networks it is building to other network operators, but has agreed to allow public safety users in FirstNet states to use other AT&T spectrum bands – a move designed to enable public safety users to quickly gain broader interoperability with public safety entities in other areas.
Elected officials at a recent congressional hearing about FirstNet questioned Rivada’s experience with operating a wireless network. A New Hampshire official at the hearing said performance and assurity bonds would be put in place if the state were to choose Rivada.
In a statement, AT&T senior vice president Chris Sambar said, “We remain hopeful New Hampshire will continue to assess the substantial risks associated with an opt-out proposal of an unproven vendor.”
One other state – Colorado – has provisionally chosen Rivada to build and operate the public safety network in that state should the state decide not to use AT&T.
In a statement released today, Rivada Networks CEO Declan Ganley said New Hampshire “ran the longest and most thorough opt-out review process in the country.” He said Rivada looks forward to other states joining New Hampshire in building their own First Net radio access networks.
There is a lot at stake in states’ FirstNet decisions, as comments from an AT&T executive this week illustrate. AT&T chief financial officer John Stephens told attendees at a financial conference that the company saw opportunities to leverage its FirstNet wins to sell a wide range of offerings such as smart city applications and drones to a wide range of government entities.
Verizon currently has many public safety accounts and has taken various steps to try to retain them, including offering to build a public safety network core consisting of data centers and other infrastructure that would operate in parallel with AT&T, but with which AT&T has no current plans to interconnect.