New Hampshire has made no decision to opt out of FirstNet, even though the state has issued a request for proposal (RFP) that seeks bids on a project that calls for a public-safety LTE network to be built throughout the state before FirstNet is expected to begin construction on its nationwide public-safety broadband system, according to a key state official.

John Stevens, the statewide interoperability coordinator who works with the New Hampshire department of safety, said that issuing the RFP is “only preparatory” and should not be interpreted as a sign that the state has some sort of disconnect with FirstNet.

“We remain in lock step with FirstNet, and we anticipate that we will be working with FirstNet over the next few years to develop the state plan—however long that may take—and work with FirstNet to establish a FirstNet-viable communications network here in New Hampshire,” Stevens said today during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

“By no means are we looking at anything at this point in time as far as opting out of FirstNet. I saw that written in a previous article, and that’s not the intent at all. We’re just looking at the options available in the landscape. We continue to work on a daily basis with FirstNet to accomplish the FirstNet goals … In my responsibility, I just have to make sure that we discuss all options.”

New Hampshire released its RFP for a public-safety LTE system on Dec. 11, just two days after the FirstNet board voted unanimously to release the RFP for its nationwide initiative early next month.

“The overall scope of the project is to design, build, manage and sustain a state-of-the-art, carrier-neutral LTE broadband communication network using licensed FirstNet 20MHz of the 700MHz LTE spectrum dedicated to, and controlled by, public safety with the potential to wholesale access to multiple carriers in conjunction with the State of [New Hampshire],” the RFP states.

New Hampshire intends to have the proposed network comply with all FirstNet standards for interoperability and security, and the state plans to continue collaborating with FirstNet in the future, according to the RFP. The RFP does not include any mention of an intent by the state of New Hampshire to “opt out” of FirstNet, but the RFP does indicate that the bidding process is designed to help state officials be more prepared when its governor has to decide whether the state should opt out of FirstNet and build its own radio access network (RAN).

“Whether through training initiatives or through our educational outreach programs, FirstNet has been centric to this process,” the RFP states. “Now that we enter Phase II, collecting the necessary data to assess our current capabilities and understanding what we believe to be our expectations regarding a FirstNet build-out in New Hampshire, the collective stakeholder environment suggests strongly that we need to create comparative data to truly understand and recommend our pathway forward.”

Under the timetable outlined in the New Hampshire RFP, bidders must submit their proposals by Feb. 19, and the state expects to select a winning bid by March 7. The schedule calls for the winning bidder to begin buildout efforts on April 30—weeks before FirstNet is scheduled to receive bids for its RFP—and the statewide LTE network to be completed by Sept. 30, 2017.