AT&T already is deploying cell sites that operate on the 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum licensed to FirstNet and expects to finish the buildout—covering 95% of the U.S. population—well before the contracted five-year contract period expires in most cases, according to the AT&T executive heading the project.
Under federal procurement rules, AT&T—named last March as FirstNet’s nationwide contractor—cannot get paid for its deployment work until it receives the network task order from FirstNet, said Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president for FirstNet. But the telecom giant is not letting the absence of a task order slow its Band 14 deployment efforts, he said.
“We’re not waiting—no way,” Sambar said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We know what needs to be done, and we know that public safety needs this now. They’ve been waiting a long time, so let’s get it done quickly for them … The bottom line is that we’re getting the work done now, and we’re going to turn it up as soon as we can.
“With Band 14, we’ve already started the work, putting it up on towers across the U.S. As you recall, we have five years to put it up, … but we’re going to move a lot faster than that, because we want to get it up sooner rather than later.”
When asked whether AT&T could complete the FirstNet Band 14 buildout in three years instead of the contracted five-year period, Sambar said he is not sure whether that is feasible, given the difficulties faced in getting local-government approval to add antennas or build new sites in certain locations.