BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2017 -- AT&T looks set to win the $7 billion contract to build the long-awaited FirstNet nationwide LTE network for first responders in the US.
"It's a done deal, but you didn't hear from me," one source on the show floor in Spain told Light Reading. Another says the win could be announced this March, or sometime later in the second quarter.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) were always the main contenders to build the 700MHz D-Block LTE network. It is supposed to provide police, fire and emergency services with interoperable radios that allow them to all communicate. (See 9/11: The Radio Issue.)
A national first-responders network in 700MHz was suggested in 2006. The 9/11 terrorist attacks highlighted how the police and firefighter radios were incompatible, making a catastrophic situation even more dangerous and difficult for emergency response teams.
Congress earmarked $7 billion for the network. It has been slow progress since then, leading some to describe the whole situation as a "boondoggle." (See FirstNet: A Billion-Dollar Boondoggle?)
"FirstNet remains in an ongoing procurement process and no award has been made," A FirstNet spokesperson tells us.
The contract, however, is likely to be announced in the second quarter, Light Reading has been told.
Much like the Affordable Care Act, however, individual states will be able to opt-out of the program if they wish to. Our sources say that some states will do just that.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading