This resource publication is the exclusive property of The Monitoring Association (TMA) and the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) and not for general distribution in its current form. All comments or inquiries shall be directed to Celia Besore. Below is a general overview and roadmap of information currently available and therefore subject to change.
The professional safety and security industry has worked cooperatively for several years with first responder organizations and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), so that the professional safety and security industry can access a high-speed, robust cellular network designed for first responders, known as FirstNet.
Due to the criticality of receiving emergency event signals from professionally installed systems for the general public good, the FirstNet offering is available to manufacturers of Eligible Alarm Panels (defined below) with a FirstNet SIM and companies that provide a FirstNet SIM for use with an Eligible Alarm Panel purchased by a TMA Certified alarm provider. This affords a reliable mechanism to communicate public-safety related alarm signals to a central alarm monitoring facility.
The FirstNet network is designed for and inspired by the public-safety community, including law enforcement, the fire service, and emergency medical service, as well as emergency managers and PSAPs. FirstNet provides the vital connectivity and lifesaving tools first responders need every day and in every emergency.
For the Alarm industry, Eligible Alarm Panels are eligible for FirstNet Service as Extended Primary Users. Eligible Alarm Panel means an alarm panel: (i) of an Alarm Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM); (ii) embedded with a FirstNet SIM; (iii) which AT&T has determined is an Approved Device; (iv) that communicates to and from an Alarm Provider’s central alarm monitoring facility; and (v) for which the central alarm monitoring facility then communicates with public safety answering points (PSAPs).
General Operation & Background
What is the purpose of FirstNet?
FirstNet is the country’s first nationwide communications platform dedicated to public safety to help first responders connect to the critical information they need every day and in every emergency. Built with AT&T, in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FNA), FirstNet is bringing public safety a long overdue and much-needed technology upgrade. FirstNet gives public safety 21st Century communication tools to help save lives, solve crimes and keep our communities and emergency responders safe.
To do that, AT&T, under a contract with the FNA, is building a separate communications platform operating on a physically separate dedicated core that is purpose-built for public safety based on their specifications and requirements. The FirstNet evolved packet core includes coverage by AT&T’s Band Class 14 wireless spectrum over AT&T’s 4G LTE network. Band 14 is a nationwide, high-quality wireless spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. It provides good coverage in urban and rural areas, penetrates buildings and walls easily and covers larger geographic areas with less infrastructure. Band 14 also enables high-power user equipment with the ability to radiate at levels 6 times what is typically allowed on an LTE system.
FirstNet promises very competitive rates and rapid evolution of advanced communication capabilities. “FirstNet is public safety’s network. It’s giving them access to tools they’ve never had before – tools that can transform their emergency response,” said Chris Sambar, AT&T Technology Operations EVP. “And now, no matter where they live or work, first responders can easily subscribe to their network. This means public safety nationwide will no longer be limited by outdated or unreliable communications capabilities.”
What is the history of FirstNet?
The 9/11 terrorist attacks brought to the forefront the many communications’ challenges that first responders face during emergencies and disasters. These issues were captured in the 9/11 Commission Report, which identified gaps in emergency communications and recommended a nationwide network for law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical personnel communications.
The public safety community united to fulfill the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation. Public safety organizations and associations advocated before Congress for a dedicated, reliable wireless network for first responders.
These advocacy efforts led to the passage of legislation in 2012 to create the First Responder Network Authority to deploy the FirstNet network in all U.S. states and territories, including rural communities and tribal nations. This is an independent government authority charged with carrying out public safety’s vision of FirstNet, bringing first responders a dedicated communications ecosystem.
Is FirstNet available in my area?
All 50 states, five U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., have opted-into FirstNet, meaning each has accepted its individual FirstNet-adopted state plan detailing how the network will be deployed in their state/territory. The FNA’s public-private partnership with AT&T provides first responders with immediate access to mission-critical capabilities over the FirstNet network. This includes priority and preemption features that give first responders their own fast lane on the public-safety network to communicate and share information during emergencies, large events, or other situations when commercial networks could become congested. The network is being built out currently and more sites are added regularly.
AT&T FirstNet connections now number more than 1.3 million.
Advantages to the Life Safety & Security Providers
What Is FirstNet Extended Primary?
FirstNet is available to a specific extended community that supports first responders – from the mitigation, remediation, overhaul, clean up and restoration to the provisioning of other services required – during the time of an emergency or its aftermath.
These are known as extended primary users and can include essential government services, transportation and utilities. Certain services provided by the electronic security and life safety systems industry are included in this extended primary user category – including residential, business and government facility alarm monitoring services. Because FirstNet is a dedicated public-safety resource, primary users (first responders) and the extended community applications are reviewed before service is approved.
For the alarm industry, Eligible Alarm Panels are eligible for FirstNet Service as Extended Primary Users.
What are the advantages to a life safety & security alarm provider using the FirstNet Evolved Packet Core?
There are several. The FirstNet mobile broadband public-safety network provides a faster network experience that is faster than any commercial wireless network.
According to AT&T, the statistic is based on the company’s analysis of Ookla Speed test data for the first quarter of 2020. Ookla Speed tests are based on an automated testing system that end users conduct on their mobile devices.
Where that spectrum has not yet been built out, users get priority on AT&T’s commercial network.
FirstNet has the added potential to have legacy equipment stay in operation for a greater length of time.
Is there a special frequency for FirstNet?
FirstNet is a mobile network designed by and for first responders using Band 14, a slice of the 700 MHz spectrum that was recovered from UHF TV broadcast during the US transition to digital TV that began in 2009.
FirstNet’s Band 14 spectrum sits in the middle and upper range of 700 MHz airwaves. In March 2017, AT&T won the 25-year contract to use that spectrum in a first-responder network.
What are the advantages to a hardened FirstNet network to the Life Safety & Security industry?
FirstNet is hardened to be more reliable during catastrophic events that take down mobile networks and has significant cybersecurity features.
A fleet of 76 dedicated deployable network assets stand by around the country to deploy quickly and pull internet access from satellites overhead and translate it into 4G LTE on the ground. Three FirstNet drones are available in situations where even a truck can’t get in.
Communicators and Cellphones
I understand I will be able to install alarm communicators once vetted and a contract with AT&T/FirstNet is in place. Can I place my company cell phones on the FirstNet protocol?
No. Only Eligible Alarm Panel FirstNet-approved devices transmitting public-safety related alarm signals will be allowed to use the FirstNet network.
Are there any approved alarm communicators for the FirstNet frequency use?
As of the date of the creation of this resource document, there are no released FirstNet-approved Eligible Alarm Panels. Manufactures are making strides to become approved and engineer their systems to the FirstNet network. TMA will be assisting all who want to certify to the FirstNet protocol.
Must I use FirstNet-approved Eligible Alarm Panels for communications to a monitoring facility?
No, use of the FirstNet network is an option. You can use any communicator for transmittal of public safety related alarms. It is a recommended practice to use communicators that are listed, labeled or approved for the intended purpose. However, for purposes of FirstNet, you will need a FirstNet-approved Eligible Alarm Panel if you want to take advantage of this quick, robust FirstNet network designed from the ground up for Public Safety Entities and their authorized users.
What are the charges of FirstNet Extended Primary service?
Charges for FirstNet are solely determined by the carrier, which is AT&T, as well as the individual alarm original equipment manufacturers. You should reach out to your AT&T sales representative or go onto FirstNet.com to get more information about the service.
TMA derives no funds from the sale or use of the FirstNet service and we are solely the eligibility certifier. TMA requires a $250 fee to process the yearly certification.
As TMA is not involved in the charges or production, we are unable to speculate future costs association with participation.
How long does the process take to become FirstNet certified through TMA?
As long as all the information and payment are provided, a typical processing time by the TMA can be as fast as one to two days and as long as 14 business days, depending on the volume of requests.
Once TMA reviews the documents and validates the information, they will issue a specific dated certificate and identifier to be provided to the AT&T FirstNet group.
When your company joins TMA, you become part of the association that promotes and defends the interests of the monitoring industry, through its work in government relations, regulatory advocacy, and standards development.