July 16, 2015 — With all the conversation surrounding the FCC’s 600-MHz incentive spectrum auction, the upcoming bidding process for 20 megahertz of D Block 700-MHz spectrum to be used in the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has been somewhat overshadowed, according to Jennifer Fritzsche, senior analyst, Well Fargo.
“This could be a huge opportunity for one of the carriers. While this is not being talked about much now, we expect it to play a big part in the spectrum conversation in the second half of 2015,” Fritzsche wrote.
The FCC is expected to release the final request for proposal at the end of this year or the beginning of next with the winning carrier to be selected from those bids. The winner will build, operate and maintain the first nationwide wireless broadband network for emergency and public safety communications. FirstNet will reside on 20,000 to 40,000 towers, according to one estimate.
“Barring a national emergency, we estimate the spectrum will be less than 1 percent penetrated by public safety needs, which provides the winner with access to that excess capacity,” wrote Fritzsche.
AT&T and Verizon are in the best position to build FirstNet, according to Fritzsche, because of the scale of the project and the carriers’ existing 700-MHz spectrum assets. Because FirstNet will be giving $6.5 billion in seed money to the winner, Fritzsche does not believe the FirstNet bidding process will affect participation in the broadcast incentive auction.