Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Appointment of Boniface to FirstNet: What does Yoggi Berra, FirstNet and the Carriers have in common?

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker appointed Barry Boniface to serve on the Board of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) yesterday. That could be a good thing and a bad thing, but I’m betting on the latter.

This appointment could be a good thing in that we seem to be moving in the right direction when it comes to a business plan being finalized. But, most likely will mean a bad thing, in that his bio reflects a merger and acquisition background, which could relate to the possible acquisition, or merger, by FirstNet, with a major US carrier…maybe T-Mobile or Sprint? I refer you to his background “in a number of the largest merger and acquisition transactions in the telecom industry, including BellSouth/AT&T, Cingular/AT&T Wireless, CenturyLink/Qwest, Sprint/Clearwire, BellSouth LatAm/Telefonica, amongst others.” He could be a great asset in aligning what is needed and providing some insight to the GM though.

By merging with, or acquiring, a carrier it's easy to see how many would think of this as a good thing, in that it assembles the perception that it could cover a lot of ground quickly – metro ground. But, in reality we would (I stress the point “we” as being us taxpayers) still be buying the same infrastructure that seems to go down every time an event happens. That would mean that all of the sites would still have to be upgraded and hardened to Public Safety standards…if we actually owned the entire site. Most of the carriers don’t own their own assets (reference AT&T selling their towers to Crown Castle), some share towers with other carriers all over the nation. In the end, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a pig.

It’s also logical to point out that such an acquisition would still not hit the rural territories, and depending on who the carrier is, we may even risk our acquisition on the possible fact that the carrier, who is to be bought or merged with, was in itself a state “to be bought or merged with”, which would hint at some lack of business acumen or misfortune in the market place; this could also mean that their infrastructure does not even cover all of the metro environments that we are trying to hit.

Maybe it's not about the communications? One of the biggest obstacles with deploying LTE is site acquisition. We could be buying a lot of property for the cause, that’s if the carrier owns his own towers -- most don’t. If that were the case, why buy a carrier? Why not buy a tower owner, like Crown Castle or American Tower? If you want to buy land you don’t go and purchase a telephone. Plus, if you combine all the users of the PSBN network you will quickly find out that they own their own land already, in most cases they lease to the carriers themselves, so why do we need to add the carriers assets?

Then again this may be a white rabbit, in that FirstNet doesn’t actually intend to buy anyone…or merge, if that were the case. Could you imagine the chaos that would persist in trying to build a Public Safety network off infrastructure that was designed for commercial service? We would just be buying the rights to own the carriers headaches. The issue of backup power alone would increase sales of Tylenol across the Nation.

In the end, for seven years, I analyzed the merger and acquisition process of a major carrier to fulfill the needs a of vertical market player, but, what ends up happening is a chaotic relationship trying to mix business models. All the models I looked at died in the same manner of non-compliance and the lack of meaningful characteristics that could sustain the buyer’s needs resulting in wasted time, money and assets. The best way this network will work, is when everyone’s needs are met, and you can only meet everyone's needs through a Public Private Partnership executed at the State level. I feel like I’m talking to the water in the well at this point.

As Yoggi Berra once said, “We made too many wrong mistakes.”

Just some guy and a blog….

PS... I still need a job.

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