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 700 MHz Band Class 14 wireless spectrum. 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 allows high-power user equipment (HPUE) with the ability to radiate at levels 6 times what is typically allowed on a commercial 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, formerly 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 This means public safety nationwide will no longer be limited by outdated or unreliable communications capabilities.”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 3 million.