Executive Council members approved the initial agreement with Rivada Networks in the summer of 2016, but many key components were unknown at the time—for instance, how the nationwide FirstNet system would be built, who would be governor when an “opt-in/opt-out” decision would be made, and whether an “opt-out” decision would be made that would necessitate a full contract.

Under the law that established FirstNet, governors in all 56 states and territories have the choice of making an “opt-in” decision—accepting the FirstNet deployment plan and allowing AT&T to build the LTE radio access network (RAN) within the state’s borders at no cost to the state—or pursuing the “opt-out” alternative, which would require the state to be responsible for building and maintaining the RAN for the next 25 years.

As a result, the 2016 agreement was a 20-plus-page document that outlined the fact that the state would negotiate solely with Rivada Networks, which was selected through a procurement process. All parties agreed that a contract with Rivada Networks detailing how an alternative-RAN network would be built and maintained for the next 25 years would be much lengthier and include considerably more detail.

Sununu made his opt-out decision last week, shortly after receiving a report from the Opt-Out Review Committee he established in October. The committee’s report did not make an “opt-in/opt-out” recommendation to the governor, but it outlined potential risks to the state under an “opt-out” scenario and that “substantial progress” should be made toward a contract with Rivada by the Dec. 28 deadline, if the governor made an “opt-out” decision.

“The choice to opt-out and build the network through an alternative plan comes with risks,” the report states. “However, based on the information the committee has at this time, Rivada anticipates being able to mitigate those risks. Rivada has proposed a number of potential safeguards to protect the state in the event of a failure to obtain necessary regulatory approvals or Rivada’s failure to implement its alternative plan.”

With Sununu making the “opt-out” decision, Rivada Networks has been working with state officials on potential contract terms, but a lack of information from FirstNet in certain key areas has made it difficult to resolve certain details, according to Rivada Networks spokesman Brian Carney.

“We are working on the contract with the state right now. But there are things about the contract—such as terms of the spectrum lease, core-access payments or terms, and all of those things—that we have no visibility into,” Carney said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “All of those things are unknowns and very unlikely to be resolved in any definitive way between now and Dec. 28. They may not be resolved until you go through the full regulatory review process.”

FirstNet has provided officials in all states and territories with a draft spectrum-management lease agreement (SMLA) that includes the terms under which the state would access the 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum licensed to FirstNet to support the alternative-RAN network in an “opt-out” scenario.

However, the draft SMLA does not disclose how much a state would pay to access the FirstNet LTE core network, and FirstNet CEO Mike Poth told New Hampshire officials that the termination fee cited in the draft SMLA represents the payment that would be needed in a “worst-case scenario.” Whether any flexibility also exists in the spectrum payments included in the SMLA is unclear at this point, Carney said.

“It’s not clear whether those amounts are the final, absolute [figures],” he said.