Thursday, May 22, 2014

FirstNet - You're acting like my six kids....just pick a business model and sell it already....act like an entrepreneur! Stop trying to herd cats!

When are we going to understand that we are just building an LTE broadband company? The important point is the word “company” not network. Of course we are building a network, but that network is designed based on a plan of action; that plan of action is formulated by picking, and balancing the needs of your target market, your main shareholders, capital needs, partnership desires and product-to-revenue capabilities.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2012 is a an act that…blah, blah, blah….  Essentially the Act already puts into action the requirements that the Public Safety Broadband solution must meet. Crucially the requirement for “self-funding” and “self-sustaining” will be a driving force of the Business Plan you create. Also included in the Act is the requirement to be all-inclusive of Public Safety, and their geographic footprint, as to allow for fully interoperable communications between all First Responders. But how do we get there? We need to envision our endgame, create a plan, then based on that plan (business plan), create the design, outline the build, create the schedule -- and then build it? That plan will highlight the best course of action – well before we need to know what design we must have.  Am I missing something here? Seems simple to me, but I’ve been in the telecom business since I joined the Army back in 1986...what the hell do I know!

How many RFI’s (and why are we even talking RFPs right now is beyond me), conferences, press briefings and board meetings do we need in order to just get this train moving? I have six kids and I can safely state that I can get them into the minivan faster that getting FirstNet to just adopt the business plan and set the standards, it’s a close call, but I refer to it as herding cats. Usually my last words to my children are, “just get in the car and buckle up, I’m leaving!” – incase you missed it; this is analogous to the State being the parent; FirstNet and the Public Safety Community being the kids.

If I were an entrepreneur, and I owned the D-Block Band 14 Spectrum, I would have formulated a vision of what my end-game was within a hour, else I wouldn’t own the spectrum. Just because you may know that the spectrum is valuable, doesn’t do any good without a sound vision that creates your business case. My vision would be to create a great broadband company, based on a product using LTE, targeting strong and stalwart Priority 1 and 2 customers, and then look for partners to help fund it.  It helps when my customer base won’t drive me crazy every time a new technology comes out; my business would have the backing of both the State and the Federal Government; plus, the added pleasure to sell my unused bandwidth to the commercial carriers or service providers; and, most importantly, have $7 Billion in my pocket to get it started.

This makes the actions needed quite simple…. take my vision…build my business case (cost impacts versus return on investment) then outline the best strategy to start its rollout, then take action to get it moving. In the end, all I'm doing is selling LTE broadband services, so why is this so hard to understand? Well, mainly, because you can’t build from top down (Federal) you have to build from bottom up (State).

If the $7 Billion was my personal cash (which from the taxpayer position the $7 Billion is mine), and I knew that that $7 Billion won’t cover my needs to build out my entire business solution, then I would start with what I can, using the approach that best meets my holistic needs, and then focus on getting to my end game. That end game is the full national network, the capital to sustain it, using the product of LTE. The output of that product is cash, which allows me to spread into other entrepreneurial pursuits, like, more Public Safety solutions, paying for First responders needs, or enticing private investors to help fund my idea – sound familiar?

Look at it this way: the US wants to build a pipeline from the Oil Sands of Northern Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico. It will cost some $20 Billion to build a pipeline across the Northern tier of Canada into Alaska down into Washington State, over to Buffalo New York, then down to Texas. Or we can just connect to the Canadian pipeline that already exists and goes straight from the Oil Sands project right into the Buffalo area for only $6 Billion. Many would think that because the American version cost more that we must do the Canadian version. In reality though, that means we would be investing almost 80% of that $6 Billion into Canada, not the United States. Where as if we go forward with the $20 Billion project 90% of that money goes right back into our economy – not Canada’s (Don’t get me wrong, I like the Canadians, but I gotta feed those six kids). It’s not about the amount of money it will take to get it done; it’s all about where the money goes to get it done.

We don’t need to be afraid of viewing this entire PSBN solution as a cost on the taxpayers, or the political message of generating cash revenue from the Public Safety Broadband Network; it’s fruitless to think we can control what others think. It’s all about where the money goes and how best it meets of the target market. Our biggest issue will be our need to lookout for greed, ambivalence, naiveté, coercion and corruption, or any detrimental affect that could interrupt the best business model. But we can’t even get to that stage if FirstNet doesn’t create a business plan, align it with the best go-to-market strategy, then present it to their partnered investors – those partners are the State Governors, local First Responders, Utilities, Transportation, DHS, and most of all, the Private Equity Investors – unless you think the taxpayers should pay for this.

This isn’t a game of agendas to drive a winner; it is an attempt to create a broadband business that best needs of all those involved. Notice I didn’t say anything about carriers, vendors, or contractors. In this case FirstNet, the organization, which is controlled by its board, is the entrepreneur; any entrepreneur would not try to create a model that investors weren’t willing to invest in. Trying to partner on a technical solution, with an assortment of vendors and contractors, before you have completed what your target market is, what your product is, how you need to sell that product, how you must fund that products introduction, and ultimately, how you collect cash from that product, is what needs to happen.  

The rules to this game are already written into the act. Just read the act, pick the best model that aligns with its requirements, and then sell it to your investors. It really is that simple. Following those engagements, a course of action, or next steps, will present itself. Shot gunning the side of the bar with conferences, sessions, meetings, and webinars, is not going to get the Board to understand the business model any better than understanding what you are building (an LTE network), its functional capabilities, and how best to productize its services for your target market – in this case “Public Safety Service Organizations” -- as depicted in the Act as well. It’s all there. Just read the Act! I’ve spent the better part of 11 years now focused on the best business models for just such an entrepreneurial endeavor, and unfortunately, I am the only one who took the time to do so, which tells you about the kind of person I am. That sounds feisty doesn’t it? Or crazy? Oh well, like I do with my kids, sometimes you have to light a fire under their ass to get them moving. Once they move they love it.  But who am I other than just a Dad and….

Just some guy and a blog….

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Words to Live By: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” (Steve Jobs)