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Rivada Mercury loses FirstNet lawsuit, takes battle to states

A federal judge ruled in favor of the First Responders Network Authority in a bidding dispute case brought by Rivada Mercury, a partnership formed specifically to bid on the FirstNet national public safety LTE network. Rivada Mercury promptly responded to the loss by saying it would take the battle to the states and try to win state-level contracts to build FirstNet-interoperable networks if those states opt out of the national build.

Unless Rivada Mercury appeals the outcome of the lawsuit, FirstNet is free to move forward with its award of approximately $6.5 billion to deploy and run a nationwide LTE network for public safety use. In a statement, FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said, “We are pleased with the court’s decision. This is a positive development for FirstNet and the public safety community. FirstNet intends to move expeditiously to finalize the contract for the nationwide public safety broadband network.”

A Rivada Mercury spokesman told RCR Wireless News via email that the company is examining its options for appeal and had no further comment at this time. Rivada Mercury is a partnership formed by Rivada Networks, Fujitsu, Nokia, Harris and Black & Veatch specifically to bid on the FirstNet contract, with a number of former Sprint executives high in its ranks.

Judge Elaine Kaplan of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued the ruling in favor of the Department of the Interior, which issued the request for proposal on behalf of FirstNet. The lawsuit centered around how FirstNet evaluated and ultimately eliminated bids from the competitive range for its $6.5 billion RFP.

Rivada Mercury claimed it was wrongfully excluded from the competitive range for the network project and argued the court should force FirstNet to reconsider its bid and allow Rivada Mercury to fully address the areas of concern or weakness that led FirstNet to exclude it in the first place. Rivada also claimed (in a heavily redacted version of its initial complaint) that “based on industry intelligence,” FirstNet’s competitive range “reduced the field to a single remaining competitor.” (Get more details on the lawsuit here.)

In the course of the litigation, AT&T joined the case on the side of the government as an intervenor – a third party who is not named in the original case but requests to join because of a vested interest in the outcome. AT&T stated in its court filings that its bid was within the competitive range; it is the only publicly known bidder still in the running, with both Rivada Mercury and bidder pdvwireless having been notified that their bids were no longer being considered.

The RFP was released more than a year ago and FirstNet had originally hoped to award the contract by November 2016, but the award was held up by the Rivada Mercury lawsuit. Now, having lost out on the chance to build the network nationwide, Rivada Mercury responded to the ruling by issuing a press release stating it “offers a FirstNet solution to the states“.

One of the first tasks outlined in the RFP is for FirstNet’s partner to complete a network plan for each state (within the first six months of the award) and present them to the governors of the 56 states and territories that will be covered by FirstNet. Each governor then has the option to opt out of FirstNet, in which case the state must design and build its own radio access network that must be interoperable with the rest of the network and tie into the FirstNet core. Opt-out decisions must be made within 90 days of receiving the FirstNet plan, and states then have 180 days to design and submit their own RAN plans.

Some states are already looking at the opt-out option. New Hampshire, for instance, granted a contract to Rivada Networks to develop an alternative RAN plan for the state to compare to FirstNet’s State Plan. It’s not exactly a final opt out, but it will give the state a chance to look at another option within the narrow window when it can. Alabama and Arizona have also put out RFPs for alternatives to FirstNet, and in November, California issued a request for information for proposals for its own statewide public safety LTE network. Rivada Mercury made it clear it will aggressively pursue the business of states that opt out of the plans designed for them by FirstNet. In a series of tweets on Friday, the company proclaimed “FirstNet will be won or lost at the state level” and that it is engaging with states on their options.

“We are fully prepared to execute our plan to work with the states to build state-of-the art, dedicated networks for public safety,” said Joe Euteneuer, co-CEO of Rivada Networks, in the company’s Friday release. “We applaud New Hampshire’s recognition of Rivada’s experienced management team, technology and technical expertise, and believe many other states will make a similar selection.”

“FirstNet has made its choice. Now it is time for states to make theirs,” Euteneuer said. “Those that stand by idly will be forced into a federal solution that may or may not suit their needs or budgets. We look forward to working with the states to ensure that they receive a network equal to the promise made to public safety when FirstNet was created.”

Looking for more information on FirstNet and the implications of its national LTE network for public safety? Register for the RCR Wireless News webinar on the topic, coming this Wednesday. 

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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