The First Responder Network Authority has given AT&T the go-ahead to build out FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband network. This includes deploying public safety’s dedicated spectrum – Band 14 – across statewide radio access networks in states and territories across the country.
In the next five years, AT&T will be putting Band 14 on tens of thousands of new and existing sites nationwide.
“We are implementing the state plans and delivering on our commitment to first responders in each state and territory,” said First Responder Network Authority CEO Mike Poth. “We haven’t wasted any time in getting started. We plan to touch about a third of our cell sites this year alone.”
Band 14 is nationwide spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet, allowing dedicated priority access to and preemption.
“We’ll cover 95 percent or more of the U.S. population with Band 14, which will bring first responders access to even more coverage and capacity to help them support emergencies and day-to-day operations across the country – in rural and urban areas,” Poth said. “This is important as FirstNet will help to address rural coverage gaps, giving first responders greater access to the connectivity they need.”
FirstNet Public-Private Partnership Sees Momentum After One Year
As it turned one year old, FirstNet gave an update on its progress. More than 350 Agencies in more than 40 States and territories have subscribed to the nationwide public safety broadband network being built by AT&T in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority.
“We’ve been working hard to build something great for first responders,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president, AT&T-FirstNet. “While we have made strong progress, we still have work to do to create the specialized experience that public safety is looking for. To already see this kind of momentum from the public safety community is encouraging, especially since first responders in many states have only recently been able to sign up for service.”
The agencies using FirstNet make up nearly 30,000 connections on the network. These connections range from smartphones to in-vehicle modems and more.
“We’re just under a year into building out FirstNet, and the platform is already giving first responders access to critical capabilities they’ve long demanded,” Sambar said. “These include unthrottled domestic data speeds as well as access to priority and preemption.”
Evolved Packet Network Core to Come Online
AT&T said it is on schedule and only weeks away from launching its nationwide, dedicated evolved packet network core specifically for FirstNet, giving public safety a highly secure environment.
“Bringing the core to life has been a priority since March 2017. And we’ve put hundreds of millions of dollars behind its build. Creating a separate network core for first responders isn’t quick, easy or cheap. But it’s necessary,” Sambar said.
Built on physically separate hardware, the FirstNet core completely separates public safety’s traffic from all commercial traffic. It is encrypted from end-to-end, using FIPS 140-2 compliant VPN solutions. It will be monitored at all times by a dedicated Security Operations Center. There will be multiple geographically distributed core sites nationwide for redundancy and performance.
The FirstNet core will connect into the state radio access networks, providing seamless interoperability from state to state.