Last week, the federal government awarded AT&T with the coveted FirstNet contract to build and manage the next-generation federal public safety communications network.
This week, unsealed court records shed added light on the reason federal officials sided with AT&T and Motorola Solutions and not rivals Rivada Mercury and Melbourne-based Harris Corporation.
Documents outline a series of obstacles to the companies’ inclusion in FirstNet, the federal initiative to create a single platform as the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated exclusively to public safety.
Redacted documents made available by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims show federal evaluators considered the proposal by Rivada Mercury and Harris Corporation “risky.”
Further, records say the bid from Rivada Mercury “contain[ed] ‘deficiencies and/or combination of significant weaknesses that, if accepted, would introduce excessive, increased risk.’ The evaluation went on to say that if accepted, success would be ‘highly unlikely.’”
A report from Urgent Communications also detailed another stumbling block for Rivada Mercury — its lack of “formal agreements with many companies included in its announced bidding team, so FirstNet would have to wait for such deals to be finalized before it could proceed with the build out of the nationwide network.”
This may explain in part why partner Harris Corporation jumped the gun announcing a partnership with AT&T before a Harris representative was forced to walk back the comment.
The U.S. Department of Commerce recently awarded the 25-year contract, which will require AT&T to invest more than $46.5 billion in the construction of the FirstNet system. Estimates are that the system will create 10,000 jobs in the first two years. Once completed, public safety users will have advanced communications capabilities, including the ability to send video and live footage from the field.
FirstNet will be a lifesaving tool during natural disasters such as major hurricanes, where residents must rely on communications between local law enforcement, the National Guard, Florida Wildlife Commissioner Officers, EMTs and others.