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.

Governors in all 50 states are required to make the “opt-in/opt-out” decision by Dec. 28. If no decision is announced, the state will be treated as if the governor made an “opt-in” choice, and AT&T will deploy the RAN within the state in accordance with the FirstNet official state plan.

New Hampshire was the first state to conduct a procurement process associated with a potential FirstNet “out-out” alternative, issuing its request for proposals (RFP) in December 2015, weeks before FirstNet released its nationwide RFP.

Although New Hampshire selected Rivada Networks as its vendor in September 2016, the agreement signed at the time did not include a great deal of detail, because many of the FirstNet network policies had not been established at the time. Officials for Rivada Network and New Hampshire have acknowledged that a final contract will be much longer and more detailed than the current 20-page agreement, which primarily established that Rivada Networks has exclusive rights to negotiate a deal to build its proposed alternative RAN.

One key item that New Hampshire officials want is assurance that the state is protected financially throughout the 25-year period of an “opt-out” contract, according to Stevens.

“The state’s position is that we’re looking for performance and surety bonds throughout the duration of the contract,” Stevens said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications early in September.

While many construction projects include requirements for such bonds, those projects typically have a shorter duration and involve a predictable scope of work. In contrast, the FirstNet project is a 25-year commitment and that likely requires upgrades to 6G—and possibly 7G—technologies that have not even been contemplated by standards bodies such as 3GPP, according to industry insiders.

Steven acknowledged the challenges associated with a 25-year bond for the New Hampshire project.

“How do you project the technology?” Stevens said. “I don’t know what technology is going to be a year from now, let alone 25 years from now.”

Rivada Networks declined to comment on the SIEC recommendation, stating that it would reserve comment until Gov. Sununu announces his “opt-in/opt-out” decision.