Public Safety Advocate

Fri Jun 17 12:36:32 2016

We now know who at least two of the FirstNet bidders are. In addition to the announcement by Rivada and its partners, Pacific Data Vision (PDV), now pdvWireless, which is already in the process of building out a nationwide near-mission-critical PTT network on spectrum in the 900-MHz band acquired from Sprint, has issued a public statement that it, too, has responded to the FirstNet RFP. PdvWireless did not announce any partners but it does not take much to piece together at least some of them. Morgan O’Brien and his friends from the Nextel network days are behind pdvWireless and where Morgan goes, Motorola and Sprint are usually right next to him.

Just for fun I went back to my weekly Public Safety Advocate blog dated September 25, 2014, and here is what I wrote about pdvWireless and Mr. O’Brien:

“Dusting Off My Crystal Ball Just for Fun!

By now most of you know that Morgan O’Brien, best known as a co-founder of Nextel and more, most recently involved with the Public Safety Spectrum Trust with his company Cyren Call, is back in the wireless arena once again. This time his company Pacific Data Vision (PDV) purchased 6 MHz of 900-MHz spectrum from Sprint. PDV intends to turn this spectrum into a nationwide, not quite mission-critical push-to-talk network for customers who truly value the push-to-talk services they enjoy using LMR, had when using Nextel, or are using Sprint, AT&T, or Verizon’s PTT service as well as any number of other PTT applications available today. Morgan and his company are being pretty realistic when it comes to the number of potential customers and has plans to petition the FCC to permit LTE in what is really a 3X3 MHz spectrum holding, not a lot of spectrum for an LTE system.

However, according to my crystal ball there is another shoe or even two or three that could be dropped. So let’s say PDV can quickly build out a nationwide PTT voice system in this spectrum while petitioning the FCC for LTE use. Now let’s suppose that over that same two years FirstNet makes some but not a lot of progress in its network deployment. By this time the presidential election is drawing near, everyone in Congress is looking for something to grab onto to show their success, and FirstNet is not a shining example of how things get done. So Morgan and his group, now with a quick and successful nationwide build under their belt, turn to the Public Safety community, and to Congress (he has been there before), and pitches taking over FirstNet. PDV will build, manage, and run the network, providing nationwide data services for Public Safety. PDV’s now nationwide PTT voice network can be the platform for mission-critical PTT over LTE and the 700-MHz band can remain reserved for data only.

Now we have a combination that is hard to beat: a proven track record, both data and mission-critical voice, and a company that can do everything that needs to be done quickly, including finding partners to strengthen its position with both secondary users and perhaps financial partnerships. Could it happen? Maybe, and from my vantage point the only group that could make it happen is one in which Morgan plays a role and, I am sure, involves others who want to see the network built and operational.”

So I got most of it wrong! First, pdvWireless has only a few cities up and running: Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Dallas/Houston, New York/New Jersey, and Philadelphia. However, according to the news releases, it is about to launch thirteen more metro areas. Next, Congress appears to be satisfied with the progress FirstNet is making. The last thing I was wrong about, and I am frankly glad I was wrong, is that during this past two years FirstNet has made a huge amount of progress, the RFP was issued, and responses received at the end of May. Further, FirstNet is really trying to keep on track to make an award by the end of November of this year.

What I was right about was that Morgan O’Brien and his team are still very much interested in FirstNet and building out and managing the network. Those involved at the highest levels of pdvWireless have had a lot of experience with building out large-scale systems and making money for themselves and others while doing so. It will be interesting to see if the other bidders come forward and announce themselves or if they will remain incognito until the award is made. The consensus seems to be that there were at least three if not more bidders. Even with only three bidders the first two we know about are both capable of building the network, each has a different rationale for bidding, and hopefully the other bidder(s) will be equally as strong if not stronger. That will certainly enable FirstNet to choose the best possible partner team.

Whichever company becomes the FirstNet/Public Safety partner will be stepping up to spending somewhere northward of $30 billion over the next ten years in hopes of having an opportunity to earn a nice return on that investment. From my vantage point, I hope things go smoothly and that the contract is awarded, the network is built, and first responders flock to it in large numbers. If not, all of the great work that has been done by so many dedicated people will be for naught. We cannot afford to let that happen.

There is a weather forecaster here who ends each of his TV forecasts by saying, “watch your kids around water.” I guess my signoff would be, “Support FirstNet but continue to support your LMR systems, too!”

Andrew Seybold

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