Thursday, January 30, 2014

FirstNet Governor's Presentation - have you ever had a colonoscopy? Well get ready.

I just reviewed the presentation made by FirstNet to the Governor’s Association by TJ Kennedy and Teri Takai. Outside of the fact that it resembles all the other presentations, Mr Kennedy and Ms Takai did a fine job. The presentation is insightful as to what is needed when constructing the execution format in gathering information and analyzing a State’s assets and users, but what it falls short of is a real business plan that addresses the ultimate question that will be poised by a Governor – who will pay for it and who will fund its long-term operations? Why does this question keep getting avoided?

We can stress all day long about the steps needed to get the network into an execution phase, but what happens if we spend millions of taxpayer dollars on analyzing; researching and discerning assets; taking inventories; justifying users; and accounting for coverage maps, only to find out it was a duplication of effort in that the State probably already has the information needed and if the P3 is what the State wants to pursue it would be done again by the responding Private Equity teams? Do we actually think that a big private equity investment house is going to blindly trust the collection of potential assets and cost structures from the government? You should note that the P3 model actually would be paid for, and executed, during a review of Private Equity investments?

What needs to happen is that FirstNet shouldn’t be spending all this time trying to define an execution strategy without disclosing the business model that the strategy is being performed against. Then again, I believe most of the States have already started reviewing all their assets, and modeling their execution strategies themselves, without the Feds involvement, so I’m hopeful that we can catch this in an early phase as to not waste too much money. By FirstNet coming clean and just laying out the plan will allow the State to make its “Opt Out” decision. If the plan envisioned by FirstNet holds merit, then we shouldn’t have a problem, but maybe that’s why FirstNet is not disclosing its cards?

I have been involved with many wireless deployments over my 25 years in the industry, in those deployments we had to clear thousands of existing tower assets, and fiber infrastructures, as a means to build out coverage maps, only to find out that, consistently, less than 15% of those assets were even good enough to be considered, and, we have to remember these sites didn’t have the stringent hardening characteristics that FirstNet requires. Why do we think that re-using existing assets will be huge cost savings, when in fact it won’t be?  I would put money on the fact that many, if not all, as was the case in LA-RICS, of the existing assets will NOT be usable. So why would FirstNet be spending all this money on an exploratory colonoscopy if it didn’t have a business model yet? The only real asset we will find usable is the land it will sit on. Maybe we should just focus on that instead of all these existing towers? If we do that though, we open up another can of worms when it comes to leasing, zoning and approval process, which by the way, has to be conducted at the local levels -- is FirstNet going to conduct all those discussions as well – without the States help? Who is going to pay for that?

As-is always the case in wireless deployments; it will always come down to who will pay for it.  I believe there is a business plan that FirstNet has in mind, and that plan actually calls for the State to fund a majority of its long-term plans, as well as its deployment. By not exposing their plan only delays the inevitable, this would explain why we aren’t hearing anything of a business plan from FirstNet.

I’m sure there are many smart and intelligent people that FirstNet is investing in to help make such a model a success, but are they the right people? Why are we complicating an LTE deployment? For the initial phase, if you get rid of all the clutter (such as radio, handhelds, mobility, etc.), you will see it’s just an LTE deployment with backhaul. Just another reason why the State needs to build its own solution yet follows the standards and the framework of interoperability laid-out by FirstNet. It really is that simple. Why must we get down in the grass and paint the pants on the ants? As I stated in the past, there really is only one way to do this and that is with the State Opting Out and developing its own Public Private Partnership in coordination with FirstNet, but who am I other than...

Just some guy and a blog…

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