FirstNet Build-Out was a Clean Sweep but Implementation Questions Remain

Published: January 24, 2018

FirstNetInformation TechnologyInformation TechnologyJustice and Public SafetyJustice/Public Safety & Homeland Security

After AT&T and FirstNet won over states with Radio Access Network build out plan will people use AT&T for their networks?

With all 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia opting into the FirstNet Radio Access Network (RAN) build out plan AT&T in conjunction with FirstNet has embarked on a new branding opportunity to both celebrate this success and prepare for future competition. Getting to this point was not without controversy with several states exploring the possibility of opting-out of the buildout, one opting-out then back in and serious challenges from other broadband network providers including Verizon and Rivada Networks. AT&T and FirstNet now face what may be an equally difficult task, winning the business of the first responders throughout the county. Verizon is the biggest competitor in this field, already controlling around two-thirds of the public safety communications market, but other providers could try and sneak in to participate in the network. The issues that have impacted the National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) are about to change as the biggest names in public safety communications preparing for a tough fight for market space.

As the NPSBN is built it will be up to companies to compete to win market space in each state. The legislative issues that states were dealing with before the opt-in/opt-out deadline are becoming secondary as it will be up to businesses to make the best case to win over state partners. Determining who will be able to participate in the NPSBN could create an immense bidding process as companies try to win millions of dollars in contracts. As it stands today AT&T is going to receive $6.5 billion from FirstNet for the initial buildout and potentially billions in more for AT&T from the states. The potential value associated with the NPSBN will attract competition throughout the system’s twenty five year long contract. However, many questions remain as to whether or not it competition will be possible. So far there have been no definitive answers from FirstNet and no agreements made between AT&T and any other organization to solve these issue. AT&T recently released new branding material to highlight its association with FirstNet. The new marketing closely ties together FirstNet and AT&T. AT&T is seeking to create separation in the public safety communications market before any other company can reach a deal with FirstNet. All eyes are on Verizon as the company attempts to maintain its market power by offering what it claims to be comparable services. A  truly competitive  field for states to work with would have cascading effects on the NPSBN for better or worse. It remains unclear whether or not companies like Verizon will be able to participate in FirstNet and if responders will want to migrate networks but a massive potential market exists and it will be hard for AT&T to keep everybody out for long.


Federal Computer Week - AT&T, FirstNet cast doubt on rival's participation

Federal Computer Week - States can keep options open on FirstNet

IWCE Urgent Communications - AT&T unveils new branding for FirstNet products and services