SECTIONS - Internet of Things
November 23, 2016

Award for FirstNet Build Could Be As Early as November, Rivada Tells Its Bandwidth Commoditization Story

Mobile bandwidth is too important to leave in the hands of a powerful few when it could be used far more efficiently via an electronic trading marketplace. At least that’s how Rivada Networks sees it.

An electronic trading marketplace, said Brian Carney, chief senior vice president of corporate communications at Rivada, would allow mobile bandwidth both to become more of a commodity and to be used in a more granular way. And it would enable companies with Internet of Things applications like connected car, for example, to get the mobile bandwidth they need as they need it and potentially at a better price point than they could get it from one of the few mobile network operators that own spectrum and networks, Carney added.

But the stars will have to align for Rivada for all this to play out. That’s because Rivada is just one of at least three companies that has submitted a bid to the U.S. government to build out a nationwide public safety broadband network for FirstNet, which put out a request for proposals in January.

AT&T is one of the others, according to a June 16, 2016 story on IWCE’s Urgent Communications. (AT&T did not respond to IoT Evolution’s request for comment on its activities related to FirstNet.)

“Early this year, AT&T publicly announced its intention to lead an offer or group that would submit a FirstNet bid,” Urgent Communications reported. “Multiple industry sources have confirmed that an AT&T-led team bid on the massive public-safety project, but the carrier has not made any public statements on the matter. Verizon and Motorola Solutions also are rumored to be part of FirstNet bids, but industry sources are not certain whether those companies are seeking to be prime contractors or are participating as members of offer or teams.”

A company called pdv wireless also has submitted a bid, as confirmed by a company spokewoman and various industry reports. The Woodland Park, N.J.-based company is a private wireless communications carrier that has acquired Sprint’s 900MHz band licenses and is launching private push-to-talk networks in major U.S. markets.

Brian McAuley, executive chairman of the board at pdv wireless, and Morgan O’Brien, vice chairman at the company, were co-founders of Nextel Communications, which Sprint bought many years ago. O’Brien was also reportedly involved in the failed effort by Cyren Call Communications Corp. to build a nationwide public safety broadband network.

As for Rivada, it was founded more than a decade ago with a charge to provide communications for disaster response. Its first work was in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The company was actually piloting its solution in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, so the Rivada solution was quickly turned from concept into reality for the National Guard, Carney said, adding that earned the company a medal from the Louisiana National Guard.

Declan Ganley, chairman and CEO of Rivada Networks, realized once the company turned on service there that it couldn’t control who used the commercial spectrum it was running on because anyone could hop aboard. That got Ganley, who has a background in commodities, thinking. If you could control access and know where the signal is radiating, he thought, you could sell capacity. So he asked Rivada CTO Clint Smith if that was technically feasible. And that set the path for what Carney said is the new Rivada.

The company received its first patents for dynamic spectrum sharing technology in 2011, after several years of R&D work. But it didn’t – and still doesn’t – have spectrum or a network. So it hit on the idea of using what is now FirstNet spectrum to provide service to first responders at the lowest possible cost and to sell the rest.

At the same time, Rivada has bid to build a nationwide LTE 90MHz network in Mexico.

The winners of both the FirstNet-related award and the Mexico award could be announced as early as this November. The company that wins the FirstNet award is supposed to have the first markets turned up within a year of the award and most sites up within three to four years of the award.

In June, Rivada Mercury announced that in addition to Rivada Networks that construction company Black & Veatch, LTE network and network solutions giants Ericsson and Nokia, backhaul design and deployment company and supply chain and logistic management provider Fujitsu Networks Communications, public safety communications expert Harris Corp, and Intel Security are part of its team for the U.S. job.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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