02 January 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
AT&T has won its competition with Irish-owned rival Rivada Networks for the right to build emergency services networks in 53 states and territories of the US.
The US Department of Commerce (DOC) awarded the contract for
the FirstNet project to AT&T in March 2017, but allowed each
state or other territory to opt out if it wished to build its
But now all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia,
Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have accepted FirstNet
and AT&T’s proposals. The other three US
territories, Guam, American Samoa and the Mariana Islands, have
until March 2018 to decide – but no one is expecting
them to choose differently.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said: "With all 50 states and
several territories participating in FirstNet, we have a clear
path to delivering a truly nationwide broadband network for
The need for a unified network – bringing together
police, fire services and other emergency services –
was first identified in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks on New York
and Washington. "We are now one step closer to delivering on a
key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission," said Ross.
Rivada made a last-minute attempt to forestall the process,
complaining just before the Christmas holiday that the FirstNet
organisation had changed the rules just a few days before
states had to make their decisions.
Rivada, led by Irish businessman Declan Ganley, said that
FirstNet had previously made "a 'draconian’ and
'unrealistic’ threat of huge termination penalties
for opt-out states". It complained that "nine days before the
opt-in/opt-out deadline, and with no public notice so far,
FirstNet is changing the rules again and withdrawing the
Rivada grumbled: "FirstNet quietly, and under cover of an
asserted right to secrecy, radically changed the terms of 'opt
out’ through a revision to its draft spectrum
It admitted that "this dramatic change makes opting out much
less risky and more attractive to states, and that is to be
applauded", but it warned: "The manner in which it was done and
the timing of the change leaves states with no opportunity to
fully weigh its ramifications."
AT&T said the decision to go for its option "was unanimous
with all 50 states, two territories and the District of
Columbia opting in to the FirstNet spectrum build-out (at no
cost to them)".
Rivada attracted only one state, New Hampshire, but it switched
to the FirstNet/AT&T option.
Chris Sambar, senior vice president for AT&T –
FirstNet, said: "Securing 53 opt-ins is significant for the
public safety personnel that this network will serve. And
we’re honoured to give first responders across the
country quick access to this life-saving solution."
Mike Poth, CEO of the First Responder Network Authority, said:
"With every state saying 'yes’ to the FirstNet
plan, America’s first responders now have a
nationwide interoperable network they can rely on
AT&T has a 25-year contract worth $46.5 billion to build
the nationwide 4G network.