O’Brien Disappointed by FirstNet Rejection

pdvWireless, Inc., Vice Chairman Morgan O’Brien said he’s disappointed that the bid his company submitted to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) on behalf of a consortium in response to FirstNet’s request for proposals (RFP) was dropped from consideration (TRDaily, Oct. 18), but he praised the bidding team that was assembled, FirstNet representatives, and the RFP. In a column for “IWCE’s Urgent Communications,” Mr. O’Brien said that the consortium, Code3 Broadband, submitted a 1,500-page proposal.

“Over the course of our pursuit of this objective, I’ve often been asked for my evaluation of the RFP process and how I would extrapolate from that process to predict the likely outcome. It’s no secret that many observers would have liked nothing better than to have had me corroborate their own view that FirstNet is a disaster in the making and that nothing good will come of it,” he said. “To those doubters, let me repeat here what I’ve been saying:  I was impressed by the caliber of the team that was fielded by FirstNet and by their professionalism in digging into the intentions, qualifications and composition of the Code3 Broadband consortium. I can only assume that the same thoroughness was employed in the analysis of our competition, even though I remain convinced that selecting Code3 would have been a superb choice for public safety. I think the potential users of this network—the intended beneficiaries of a novel approach to making communications safer and better—are in good hands with FirstNet.”

He also praised FirstNet’s “objectives-based” RFP. “For the monumental task set for them, this methodology enabled much more flexibility and encouraged much more innovation than the more traditional ‘specifications’ type of contract,” he said. “What it meant for us, since we were a ‘clean sheet of paper’ consortium, was that we could propose a ‘clean sheet of paper’ business plan; we had no existing business model into which we needed to fit. I enjoyed this process immensely, because we were able to begin with the overarching principle of designing the ‘best of the best’ for public safety, with all other considerations becoming secondary to that foundational framework. If you know something about the history and tribulations of the existing environment for many public-safety systems, you can identify with our satisfaction in ignoring all of that and aiming instead for the fences.”

Mr. O’Brien did not name the 30 industry partners in the consortium, but he hailed them as a “dream team.” “While one or two we had hoped to include were missing, I can say with pride and gratitude that we stood alongside some of the best companies on the planet (some traditional wireless and others not) as we took on this huge assignment,” he said. “The scope of capabilities needed was truly amazing; it required us to bring together very diverse and complementary talents that we found in many great and multifaceted organizations. I hope someday to have the chance to identify them all publicly and thank them for teaming with us.”

In the text of a speech he delivered in Chicago today at IWCE’s Critical LTE Communications Forum (see separate story), FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth thanked Mr. O’Brien for commending FirstNet’s staff. “We take great pride in the honesty and integrity in running this procurement and we will finish it that way,” he said.

FirstNet announced recently that it would miss its Nov. 1 goal of announcing a contract award (TRDaily, Oct. 27). The other known entities to submit bids are AT&T, Inc., and the Rivada Mercury consortium, which is led Rivada Networks LLC. – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com