FirstNet yesterday released its first set of answers to questions submitted about its request for proposal (RFP) and announced that two key dates—the deadlines for bidders to provide an optional capability statement and to submit final proposals—will be moved delayed by two weeks, meaning final bids are now due on May 13.

Although bids will be due on May 13, FirstNet still hopes to award the massive contract for a nationwide public-safety broadband network by Nov. 1, as cited originally when the RFP was released last month.

“It doesn’t affect our target date for award,” a FirstNet spokesperson said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

FirstNet made the deadline announcements in conjunction with the release of answers to 58 questions submitted as part of the RFP process. One question noted that offerors—bidding teams pursuing the right to build and operate the FirstNet system—would have little chance to incorporate answers from the March 10 pre-proposal conference in their capability statements, which were scheduled to be due on March 17 under the original RFP released last month.

In the revised RFP, the capability statements will be due on March 31, and the deadline for final proposals also will be extended by two weeks, to May 13.

Some questions asked for an extension of as much as two months, so offerors would have more time to alter their bids based on FirstNet input from the more than 400 questions being asked in this proceeding, information shared during the pre-proposal conference, and feedback provided from the capability statements into the final bid. But FirstNet extended the deadlines only two weeks, citing the “critical schedule for award” of a contract for the long-awaited nationwide public-safety broadband network.

After the capability statement is evaluated, each offeror will be advised whether the proposed team is a viable competitor for the award. However, a negative evaluation would not disqualify an offeror from submitting a proposal, according to the RFP.

Some submitted questions indicate that some perceived that submitting a capability statement is a requirement to participate in the RFP process. In its answers, FirstNet noted that offerors do not have to submit a capability statement on March 31.

“The capability statements are optional, but they provide a great strategic opportunity for offerors to meet with FirstNet one on one,” a FirstNet spokesperson told IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “They’ll receive feedback directly from FirstNet as they draft a proposal.”

Other changes to the FirstNet RFP made in response to this initial set of 58 released questions were clarifications on page counts associated with submissions and how network coverage proposals will be evaluated.

FirstNet’s RFP includes a “FirstNet Baseline” coverage map, as well as maps reflecting coverage requests from state governments, the federal government and areas where coverage is needed in rare occurrences.

“The FirstNet baseline … indicates areas where persistent coverage is desired,” the FirstNet RFP states. “On-demand temporary solutions are adequate for the other areas identified.”