Thursday, September 25, 2014

FirstNet, Sam Ginn, a thing of the past -- or is it?

I want to address the recent article by Greg Gordon, dated September 24th 2014, entitled, “Emergency communications agency finds ways to hire friends, skirt competitive bidding”. First I have to say Mr. Gordon captured the empirical facts of the progress to date, but looking too close at the evidence can generate thoughts of crucifixion. In reality what we have here is a failure to communicate, plus an eager board and Chair that really wanted to show the Federal Government how business is done in the commercial wireless world. As I spoke about in a much earlier blog posting, can we blame those that were only doing what they were asked to do with what knowledge they have? Sam Ginn was a carrier-based leader that traditionally focused on a subscriber-based model of cellular service…. he was not an infrastructure specialist or market driver, which inherently takes a special breed.

The fact is the NTIA and the Department of Commerce was more to blame for this monstrosity than anybody else. Call it lack of understanding, or a reluctance to commit to something they did not fully support, more planning should have been put together with more consultation on how a business would be created around the Act before they entrusted their plans with the cream of the crop of the commercial carrier industry. We can’t just write and execute a law and expect the company to just miraculously appear. There is some blame for Sam Ginn, but we can’t put all the blame on him. What about the carriers and their lobbying effort? What about Public Safety’s influence? What about me?

As I stated from the beginning, the business model that the NTIA was driving towards, which by the way was fed to them by the commercial carriers (this is why we need transparency), was based on the notion that all they had to do was connect to the carriers to make it happen, using existing assets that were already there, and commercializing the D-Block spectrum under the control of the carriers. That could not have been more off course and further from the truth.

The carriers operate with a subscriber model. FirstNet needs to operate from an infrastructure based service level agreement framework, kind of like a Utility. The difference being is that the primary business for generating revenue with a carrier is based on handsets, a business that is shrinking everyday due to commoditization and consolidation, which is also driving the carriers more towards content services rather than access.

FirstNet’s business model has to be based on infrastructure and the capability to generate revenue through a multitude of long-term service level agreements. The reason being is that their primary customers, the vertical industries, are long-term and infrastructure based, i.e. they build an LMR and leave it alone. Granted, if a State decides to go with the Public Private Partnership model I developed, then there are a lot of other opportunities for both FirstNet, the State and the Nation.

The fact is the NTIA and the Department of Commerce engaged a Tiger that is used to creating a large commercial carrier industry, what do they expect they are going to get? If it were me I would have went with those that understood the difference between a subscriber based commercial carrier and a infrastructure type leader, someone that is used to putting in the pipes, or the electrical distribution grids. We were so enthralled with the technology that someone lost track of the idea that the technology only makes up less than 7% of the actual program. Why have 7% of a large program take on the risk and lead the implementation of the solution?

But, all of this is past us now. The new leadership within FirstNet is encouraging. The fact is Ms. Swenson gets it. She wholeheartedly understands that you just can’t try and replicate a business model. Every business is different and should be treated as so. One of the most painful things when doing your own business is writing your business plan. Anyone that has experienced it knows that there isn’t just one way to write a business model, you have to re-write it every time for the next person because everyone likes to see and read different things -- and you have to do it because they hold the keys to your success. Nobody has the same tastes. 

As of today, I still have not seen that business model from FirstNet, I don’t care if there was a 400-page business plan put together by consultants who weren’t vetted. I just want to see the business model so we can put it into the public forum for all to see. If the business plan isn’t any good, or if its outstanding, the Public will let you know – granted you can’t please everyone – but you can get a sense of what battles you have to fight when moving forward. What I saw from Sam Ginn was his fight to get buy-in for a business model that only a select few knew about. As I stated before, if you don’t separate yourself personally from where this needs to go, then you will always feed the fire of resentment, mistrust or alternative agendas, especially when so much money is at stake. You put blood in the water and the frenzy will start.  

I think the current path that FirstNet is now taking by advertising its RFI out onto the street, so that we can involve everyone in creating the business model, is the right path. As I’ve found during my last 10-years of research on this very topic, the fact is there is only one way this can go – Public Private Partnership. Somebody involved with putting the Act together understood that, else why would they have put it in there? Lack of clarification in the Act opened the door to many different interpretations as to what a Public Private Partnership is – and still does. The fact is, and I have raised this issue before, the adoption of a Public Private Partnership framework has never been done in the telecommunications or the broadband industries. I spent 10 years researching the topic with a massive meta-data search as the basis for scripting my dissertation. It has never been done before within North America. That is why I put in the long-hours to develop the model, because I knew this would mean something someday to someone.

The datum suggest that the construct of the Public Private Partnership is typical for vertical industries, such as transportation, utilities, etc.. The variables of those Public Private Partnerships are based on infrastructure, but they are not inclusive of the monetary potential that the D-Block spectrum and the monetization of its use bestows. This monetization and revenue potential impacts the overall framework of executing a successful Public Private Partnership, but, if not executed and developed properly you can also do a lot of damage, especially when it comes to State structures, procurement and services based on critical and essential Public Safety Infrastructure.    

In an effort to deliver the right solution for the success of FirstNet I have taken all my blood, sweat, tears, anxiety, stress and all my money into this effort so that others can safely and smartly build the Nations largest telecommunications job ever. To help facilitate those objectives I’ve put together a non-traditional company called AdvancingTelecom LLC. It is a Federally approved company and has been registered with SAM (Services Administration) under GSA as a Veteran with Disability Small Business. The purpose of this entity is to just consult and educate FirstNet, the States, the consultants, and the commercial businesses about the model and how to best deploy it for the build-out of the Public Safety Broadband Network. This company is not designed to conquer the market when it comes to broadband implementations.  AdvancingTelecom’s primary purpose is to store the Intellectual Property and knowledge that has been invested over the last 10-years so that it can funneled to the right organizations in order to allow those entities to correctly implement their own program based on their own needs. What better approach than to do it with the actual Author!

If your intentions are to sell gear; if your intentions are to perform construction services; if your desire is to run the operations of wireless company; if your intention is to just get buy-in and use of your own communication assets; or if your intentions are to be one of the Private Equity players, then I can help. Everyone needs to know where he or she fits in, and believe me there is plenty of opportunity to be had for everyone. But remember, I’m not doing this for free.

I have provided an enormous amount of content over the last 2-years; and I know there are those that want to duplicate it and call it their own; but be weary, there is a lot more at stake than just some lawsuit on Intellectual Property Rights, you may put an entire State’s economic engine, and its Public Safety needs, in jeopardy if the model is not installed correctly and balanced appropriately. Don’t know about you, but if I were the Program Lead for this, I wouldn’t dare try and risk such a thing; especially if it has my name attached to it when it fails.  

In the end, let go of the past, we are where we are and FirstNet, under the leadership of Sue Swenson, is heading in the right direction; now lets just see if anyone is listening.



But then again…everyone just sees me as….



Just some guy and a blog…



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Moto

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)