Contested FBI wireless contract goes to AT&T

FBI's $92 million emergency operations wireless service contract goes to AT&T after lengthy protest scuffle.

FBI Headquarters (Photo by Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock)

After a year of back-and-forth protests, on Dec. 8 AT&T announced the FBI had awarded it a $92 million contract for mobile services on its FirstNet first responders' wireless communications network.

The FBI's mobility services contract with AT&T's FirstNet covers the agency's day-to-day emergency operations, said AT&T in a Dec. 8 statement and includes "FirstNet Ready" devices such as smartphones, air cards, and modems. It also expands on the agency's current use of FirstNet through the General Services Administration's IT Schedule 70 multiple award schedule contract, a company spokesman told FCW.

The new contract, said the company, marks "the largest commitment to FirstNet by a law enforcement or public safety agency." Several other Department of Justice agencies have been using FirstNet under other contracts, including the Antitrust Division and Management Divisions; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys; the U.S. Marshals Service; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to AT&T. Those agencies can expand their usage through the new contract, said the company.

The DOJ signed a $1 billion contract with AT&T under the GSA's $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions next-generation telecommunications contract in July 2019. That contract included DOJ agencies' use of FirstNet, but didn't cover the FBI.

The latest FBI award didn't come easily. AT&T's FirstNet and Verizon have been rivals for years in the public safety and emergency responder wireless communications market. The FBI contract's path reflects that rivalry.

The Government Accountability Office denied Verizon's final protest in November after testing AT&T's network speed claims and checking its pricing.

AT&T and Verizon began battling over the FBI contract in 2019, when an initial Blanket Purchase Agreement through the GSA's Schedule 70 was awarded to Verizon. The BPA, with a potential $300 million ceiling, supported 70,000 lines, and included handsets, air cards, and modems, according to GAO's Nov. 3 protest decision.

AT&T had protested the initial Verizon award. The FBI pulled the award back and reevaluated the contract. Another round of protests followed, with the agency reawarding the contract to AT&T this past July. Verizon immediately protested the award on pricing and performance issues, which led to the Nov. 3 GAO denial.