More than 40 per cent of US states have selected the first responder network build plans offered by AT&T despite competitive pressure, FirstNet authorities said.

A total of 23 states have now opted-in to AT&T’s state plans, which detail how the carrier will construct and offer a dedicated wireless network and service to emergency personnel across the country. Texas, Idaho and Maryland became the latest to opt-in this week, following similar decisions from Tennessee, Nebraska, and Puerto Rico earlier this month. Thus far, Alaska is the largest state to have accepted AT&T’s state plan.

Though there are 50 states in the country, a total of 56 states and US territories – including Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands – are eligible for the build. AT&T won the $46 billion FirstNet construction contract back in March and presented the state plans to eligible states and territories in June.

The contract gives AT&T access to 20MHz of clear 700MHz spectrum on which to build the network and up to $6.5 billion in “success-based” reimbursements over the next five years.

The opt-in decisions come despite increased competitive pressure from outside players like Rivada Mercury and Verizon.

Verizon’s “complementary” network
Verizon, which didn’t bid for the FirstNet contract, recently announced plans to build its own dedicated network core of first responders. The operator said it will also offer a number of Band-14-capable devices that will be fully interoperable with the Band 14 radio access networks FirstNet is planning to launch. Verizon said it considers its network core solutions to be a complement to FirstNet rather than a full alternative.

Rivada went up against AT&T for the construction contract, but lost out when FirstNet determined its bid wasn’t within “competitive range”. Subsequent litigation failed to reverse this decision, but Rivada has since positioned itself as offering an alternative to AT&T as a build partner. A handful of states have chosen to put the project out for public bid before accepting AT&T’s plans, and Rivada has submitted project proposals to at least two: Michigan and New Hampshire. The former state, however, ultimately opted-in to AT&T’s construction plan.

AT&T has said it plans to begin construction in the first opt-in states by the end of this year. The operator also indicated it would give first responders priority access to its existing LTE network by the close of 2017.

In the coming fiscal year, FirstNet and AT&T plan to launch the Radio Access Network build in opt-in states, complete the FirstNet-dedicated public safety core, develop and deliver new applications through an open application ecosystem and initiate Band 14 coverage on the network.