New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu today announced that his state will pursue the FirstNet “opt-out” alternative with Rivada Networks building and maintaining the LTE radio access network instead of AT&T, resulting in New Hampshire becoming the first state to make an “opt-out” announcement.

Sununu’s announcement followed a unanimous “opt-out” recommendation from New Hampshire’s Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee in October and the delivery of a risk-assessment report from the state’ FirstNet Opt-Out Review Committee earlier this week.

“After reviewing the report from the FirstNet Opt-Out Review Committee, it is clear that, while an opt-out decision comes with regulatory and financial risks, those risks can be mitigated through the safeguards and contractual provisions that the committee has recommended,” Sununu said in a prepared statement. “I am incredibly grateful to the members of the Opt-Out Review Committee for their assistance in our due-diligence evaluation.

"Rivada has proposed a plan that has the potential to provide immense value to our state, including unparalleled public-safety infrastructure investments that will lead to unmatched and near-universal coverage for the new public safety network. If we successfully navigate the opt-out path, New Hampshire will retain a level of control that it would not have enjoyed in an opt-in scenario. I am pleased that we have the opportunity to pursue a plan that will provide the maximum benefit to our public safety community and all of our citizens. New Hampshire deserves nothing less.”

New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said his office is prepared to ensure that the state’s “opt-out” initiative is a successful one.

“As chief law-enforcement officer, today's announcement marks an important development for our state and for its first responders,” MacDonald said in a prepared statement. “As we begin the next phase of the process, the Department of Justice is ready to engage immediately with Rivada and FirstNet to ensure that appropriate protections are in place to fully protect New Hampshire's interests.”

Sununu’s announcement does not mean that New Hampshire immediately has become an “opt-out” state, a designation that makes the state responsible for building and maintaining an alternative RAN that interoperates seamlessly with the nationwide FirstNet system being built by AT&T.

First, New Hampshire will need to reach a detailed agreement with Rivada Networks regarding the terms of their relationship.

New Hampshire issued its alternative RAN request for proposals (RFP) in December 2015 and selected Rivada Networks as its potential alternative-RAN vendor in September 2016. That 2016 agreement time included little detail other than naming Rivada Networks as the contractor, because very little was known about the architecture of the FirstNet system at the time, as FirstNet did not name AT&T as its nationwide contractor until March 2017.

Given New Hampshire’s lengthy history with Rivada Networks, many industry observers have indicated that Sununu’s decision would be extremely important to Rivada Networks as it tries to convince other governors to consider the “opt-out” alternative for their states.

Rivada Networks Chairman and CEO Declan Ganley was understandably pleased with Sununu’s “opt-out” announcement.

“Rivada is honored to have the opportunity to build a world-class public-safety RAN for the Granite State,” Ganley said in a prepared statement. “New Hampshire ran the longest and most thorough opt-out review process in the country. Now the real work of transforming New Hampshire’s public-safety communications can begin.

“We also look forward to other states joining New Hampshire in building their own FirstNet RANs between now and December 28. Rivada and its partners are ready to work with FirstNet and the states to roll out state RANs in any state that opts to follow this bottom-up approach to emergency communications.”

After Rivada Networks completes its detailed deployment plans for New Hampshire, the plans must be submitted to the FCC, which will determine whether the state’s proposed alterative RAN will meet the agency’s interoperability criteria for FirstNet.

If New Hampshire secures FCC approval, its alternative RAN proposal would be evaluated by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). NTIA last week released its evaluation criteria, which largely follows guidance that NTIA officials presented in August during the APCO 2017 show. The final piece of the “opt-out” process would be for New Hampshire to reach a spectrum-lease agreement with FirstNet.