Commissions in the state of Mississippi and Vermont have voted to initiate requests for proposals (RFPs) for an alternative LTE radio access network (RAN) as a potential option to their FirstNet state plans, according to Rivada Networks co-CEO Declan Ganley. Ganley also said that announced ‘opt-in’ decisions by governors are not binding—a statement that was disputed by FirstNet and its nationwide contractor, AT&T.

Ganley made the statements during a presentation given during an Aug. 3 public meeting of the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS) board of directors. During the presentation, Ganley encouraged the LA-RICS board to consider recommending that the state of California issue an RFP for an alternative RAN, which would be needed if the governor decides to pursue the “opt-out” option, which would make the state—not FirstNet—responsible for building the network within its borders.

Issuing an RFP would give California the ability to compare the FirstNet state plan with proposals from other bidders, Ganley said, noting that Rivada Networks is competing against Verizon and the Macquarie Group in response to the Rhode Island RFP.

Commissions in Mississippi and Vermont have voted to proceed with RFPs, and as many as 37 states eventually could issue an RFP for an alternative RAN, Ganley said. That figure that includes some states that already have announced an “opt-in” decision to accept the state plan provided by FirstNet and AT&T.

“There is real momentum [behind RFPs being issued]; it is happening,” Ganley said during the meeting. “And those states that are being spun as having, quote-unquote, ‘opted-in’ haven’t opted-in to anything. What they have done is that they’ve signed nonbinding letters of intent to opt-in. Some of those states are now looking at doing RFPs anyway, because they’re not committed to opt-in. That’s the legal fact of the matter, as it stands at the moment.”

However, officials for FirstNet and AT&T disputed the notion that announced “opt-in” decision are not binding.

“Each of the opt-ins is a binding decision by the state/territory to participate in the FirstNet build of the nationwide public-safety broadband network,” according to a FirstNet statement provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “The governor’s decision is immediately beneficial to public safety, as priority services are made available in the state or territory. FirstNet is appreciative of the confidence we have received from the 12 states that have opted-in, as well as the states that we have met with since opening the state-plan portal.”

AT&T spokesman Jeff Kobs said the company “vetted very carefully” the binding nature of “opt-in” announcements during the period before the final state plans are issued in mid-September and determined that they are binding decision.

“From my perspective, that [Ganley’s statement that opt-in announcements to date are not binding] is very much misinformation,” Kobs said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

Whether California—the largest market among the 56 states and territories to be covered by FirstNet—will issue an RFP is still undecided, LA-RICS Executive Director Scott Edson confirmed Saturday during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

Pat Mallon, assistant director of public-safety communications in the California Office of Emergency Services, said during the LA-RICS meeting that work had begun to develop a template that would be used if the state decides to issue an RFP, but Mallon emphasized that the governor had not yet decided whether to pursue that path.

However, because some work on a potential RFP has started, Mallon said that there is an “open proceeding” and asked all people who might be involved in the RFP process to leave the room while Rivada Networks—a likely bidder, if an RFP is issued—made its presentation to the LA-RICS board.