AT&T reportedly selected for FirstNet buildout

AT&T is the apparent selection to build FirstNet, as Rivada Mercury has filed a protest over its elimination from the bid, IWCE’s Urgent Communications is reporting.  

While no official announcement has been made—and rules around the bidding and awarding of a federal contract like this are complex and onerous—the elimination of Rivada Mercury as a bidder in the process points to AT&T as the likely bidder, IWCE’s Urgent Communications reports, noting that court records indicate the award likely will be delayed until at least March.

An AT&T spokesperson declined to comment on the report, but in a Dec. 2 Form 8-K Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, the company acknowledged that it has been informed that it is a bidder within the "competitive range" by the First Responder Network, and it’s not aware of any other bidders in this realm. pdvWireless, led by longtime wireless industry veterans Brian McAuley and Morgan O’Brien, was informed in October that it was no longer part of the competitive process.

“Based on Rivada's court filing and pdvWireless' public statements, AT&T is not aware of any other bidders who remain within the ‘competitive range’ of the First Responder Network procurement,” AT&T said in the SEC filing. “Should AT&T's bid be accepted, we look forward to serving the public safety community through this contract and making a significant investment in the infrastructure of our country. The actual reach of the network and necessary investment will be determined by the election to participate by the individual States.”

Rivada Mercury filed what’s called a “pre-award protest” on Nov. 21 to object to the Department of Interior’s “unlawful decision” to exclude Rivada Mercury’s proposal from the bidding process for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) contract.  

Rivada Mercury was unveiled in June, saying it had formed by bringing together a world-class team to bid on building America's first nationwide 4G LTE broadband wireless network for public safety. The team includes Rivada Networks, Nokia, Ericsson, Intel Security, Harris Corporation, Fujitsu Network Communications and Black & Veatch.

RELATED: Nokia, Ericsson, Intel among Rivada Networks partners on FirstNet bid

For much of this year, FirstNet had indicated it wanted to make an award for the nation’s first public safety-dedicated network by the end of this year. But FirstNet CEO Mike Poth announced in late October that FirstNet would continue to execute the acquisition process outlined in the RFP beyond the Nov. 1 target date.  

Rivada Mercury filed its protest Nov. 21 saying that the Department of Interior failed to make any reasoned or explicit determination that Rivada Mercury had no reasonable chance of being selected for the award following discussions. Rivada said the Interior Department conducted an “extraordinary” number of exchanges with Rivada Mercury and that its exclusion from the competitive process was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Rivada Networks spokesman Brian Carney declined comment to FierceWirelessTech but told IWCE’s Urgent Communications that the company believes its exclusion from the competitive range was wrong, both as a matter of law and facts. It’s contesting the decision to get put back into the competitive range. “We don’t think a competitive range of one is very competitive, nor is it in the interest of public safety, taxpayers or the government,” he told IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

A spokesperson at FirstNet said the organization isn’t commenting beyond the following statement: "The Department of Justice’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division has assigned counsel to defend against Rivada’s protest and is the counsel that will represent the interests of FirstNet and the federal government in this case. FirstNet program counsel, along with DOI and DOC counsel will support DOJ’s efforts. We have no further comment as the matter is pending litigation.”

FirstNet can’t comment on any of the bidders, but bidders can self-report if they are interested in the process. AT&T is one that has expressed its desire to be part of what it considers a unique opportunity. Expectations have long called for an existing LTE operator to be part of the project, and while some analysts pegged Verizon as a good candidate, it hasn’t said much publicly about it.

Editor's Note: This story was updated Dec. 2 with information in AT&T's SEC filing.