Dead or Not?
Although not dead, it should be viewed as a time for alignment. It is apparent that any programs that have been awarded need to be maintained in a skeleton fashion until the FirstNet is created in August…and those respective States need to help pay for that skeleton. The positive of this freeze is that those players that have approved projects, i.e. Motorola, will be ready to go once the FirstNet gets things rolling. The only real issue will be whether or not the State, and awardees, followed protocol in open procurement laws. You don’t want to have an award challenged due to anti-competitive procedures because it was done before the FirstNet Board was established. It will be essential for the FirstNet Board establish its guidelines for procurement that can be followed at the State level before commencement of projects happen – to include already awarded programs. This should not be a year in the making; more like 6 months at most.
Many people are talking about this taking about a year to get moving -- I don’t see that. For those that have already commissioned themselves to start the pilot programs, or the actual rollouts, based on considerations of active RFP procedures, will not be impacted when the ball starts rolling – unless as mentioned above. In essence the design that has been put forth by these RFPs are inline with the FirstNet interoperability and designs. The only issue I would see arising from the technical and tactical implementation is if a State decides to install a later generation of the LTE technology, thus impacted the bleeding edge scenario of non-standardization and conformance. Plus, it will take a good twelve months of site-acquisition and construction before even one radio is deployed.
Time to modify with minimum cost impacts?
I see projects like BayRICS, and LARICS, actually being one step ahead of the others once the gates are open. My only issue with what has transpired has to do with the business case made to help fund and build their solutions, i.e. subscriber based modeling. But even the initial business case is based on the subscriber model it is not a dead deal. It may force you into spending more money later on to make changes, but it won’t have an impact on the technical and tactical necessities when deploying the technology. This may actually be an opportunity for the City of San Francisco, and Motorola, to relook at its business case for BayRICS and LARICS and focus more on a SLA based long-term contract for each of its State entities that need access to the network. This should have absolutely no impact on Motorola's award. My modeling shows that the SLA model for BayRICs actually brings in more money, and is a hell of a lot easier to deploy, than the subscriber model...but who am I. After all, if consistency across the entire national network is of great importance; then it will be impossible to mitigate the differences between States that build their broadband programs based on a subscriber model versus a State that will go with the more easily adapted long-term contract case.
Impact on Carriers?
A lot of people ask what impacts the commercial carriers will have on these rollouts. Well, the power outages, and the associated deaths, that just happened in the DC area (over 5 Million affected; Katrina only affected 3 Million), puts another nail into a casket that has already been buried since the last earthquake. The commercial carriers do not build their own networks; they rely on others to do that. What they are good at is running the services on their network, but they run those services to make money, not just spend it to sustain a societal requirement of infrastructure. It is in my view, an unmistakable view, that the FirstNet, and the States, will have to build, and run, their own networks. Leave the commercial carriers to have access to the broadband subscribers once the network is up and running. After all, if I were a commercial carrier and I didn’t have to spend capital to build a network to access rural areas that don’t have broadband access; and then have them ported to me through a solid and hardening network like FirstNet; should be a no brainer. That’s almost pure profit -- of course it would have to be shared with its infrastructure provider -- FirstNet. No different than the Utilities market today.
Take this time to relook at your business plan for your rollout. Modify it for the long-term with standing 20-30 year contracts for the State entities that need to access the network. Create the SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) of your Public Private Partnerships to run the network for the long-term. Bring in those private partners that have the cash, and the foresight, to go after long-term recurring revenue.
Just some guy with a blog…