AT&T FirstNet chief Chris Sambar revealed the operator is still negotiating service contracts covering the emergency network with around ten states nearly a year after an opt-in deadline.

Sambar told Mobile World Live the situation is preventing some public safety agencies from gaining access to its network after the operator opened discussions on tariffs in January. The talks began a month after a deadline for states and territories to opt-into the FirstNet service, which saw all 56 eligible states and territories sign up to FirstNet coverage.

Sticking points
Sambar explained pricing is the issue in some cases, with two states aiming to secure the lowest rates in the country, even though others are buying more services and receiving discounts through a blended pricing model.

But he said in a lot of cases, the tussle is over control of the project.

“This programme was set up such that the federal government controls this network. So they control what we do and how we’re doing it, and everything we do they validate…Some of these states, though, they want to control it. They want it to be their contract, they want to control us. This is a sales contract, but they’re looking at this as an opportunity to now control us.”

Sambar said AT&T is already selling FirstNet services to agencies in the states with outstanding contracts. But the lack of a deal in these states means public safety agencies which buy telecom and other services through state contracts cannot sign up for FirstNet.

“In all those states we have people that are buying, thousands of them. But the bigger agencies that like to buy off of state contracts aren’t.”

AT&T recently noted more than 2,500 agencies signed on for FirstNet service by end-August, accounting for more than 150,000 connections. Sambar said a large percentage of those agencies are new to AT&T.