Some states may see a benefit in opting out of having AT&T, Inc., build their radio access network (RAN) for the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) system, speakers said during a webinar this afternoon organized by IWCE. “Control is definitely a big one,” said Joe Ross, a partner at Televate LLC, a public safety consulting firm, noting that states that opt out have control over any vendors.
Dominic Arcuri, a principal at DVA Consulting LLC, said that states in areas where AT&T, FirstNet’s network partner, doesn’t have “extensive coverage” may see a benefit in opting out and having rural or regional providers serve first responders. However, the speakers noted that states that opt out will be responsible for more that constructing a RAN.
They also will have to ensure that any vendors are able to keep current with the FirstNet applications and devices deployment, as well as meet customer service and sales obligations, Mr. Ross said. He suggested that states considering whether to opt out must consider hardening, coverage, 5G capacity growth, and continued investment in an any alternative plan. Interoperability with the FirstNet network is another major issue, he noted.
“Verizon has already ratcheted up the competition” with its offering of a public safety core network and priority and preemption for first responders, Mr. Ross said. “The competition is good,” he added, saying that Verizon and AT&T “are going to push each other.”
Ray Lehr, a former public safety official in Maryland who has done consulting for FirstNet, provided suggestions for states that are still mulling the best course for them, including contacting states that have already opted in. He noted that states that want to issue a request for proposals or request for information for an alternative state plan and haven’t yet done so have a short timeframe to do so with yesterday’s delivery of final state plans (TR Daily, Sept. 19). So far, 21 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have opted in to FirstNet. —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org