In a big announcement for the New Year, AT&T and FirstNet have closed the opt-in/opt-out period with the unanimous decisions of states and territories across America to join the dedicated Emergency Response network. AT&T's plan to design and build a dedicated wireless broadband network for public safety communities is ready to give first responders nationwide a new choice for their communications.
FirstNet is America's first-ever nationwide public safety broadband network. The recommendation for a separate, dedicated network for first responders was made by the 9/11 Commission based on the communication challenges public safety experienced during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Since then, it's been clear that the needs of public safety demand more than the networks of the past.
“Our FirstNet offering will forever change the way first responders communicate,” said Chris Sambar, SVP, AT&T–FirstNet. “Securing 53 opt-ins is significant for the public safety personnel that this network will serve. And we're honored to give first responders across the country quick access to this life-saving solution.”
FirstNet is designed to provide first responders with their own world-class network to help them connect to the critical information they need every day and in every emergency.
“With every state saying 'yes' to the FirstNet plan, America's first responders now have a nationwide interoperable network they can rely on 24/7/365 – like their mission,” said Mike Poth, CEO, First Responder Network Authority. “I applaud these governors for their decision and congratulate public safety for its advocacy and partnership throughout the process. With more than 50 states and territories participating in FirstNet, public safety is assured of an enduring, self-sufficient network to serve them for years to come.”
Decisions from the three Pacific territories of American Samoa, Guam and Northern Marianas Islands are not due until March 12, 2018.
What's Ahead in 2018
Now that opt-in decisions are in, the First Responder Network Authority is expected to give AT&T the official green light in early 2018 for its network build, including new sites. This will help cover unserved or underserved areas. And it will help drive investment and job creation. AT&T will spend about $40 billion over the life of the contract to deliver FirstNet. And the First Responder Network Authority is providing success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next 5 years as well as 20 MHz of high-value spectrum to support FirstNet's build.
FirstNet will also bring first responders a host of new capabilities in 2018. These will help make their communications simpler, safer, faster, more collaborative and more secure.
"FirstNet is the network for public safety. 2017 was about planning, preparing and moving quickly to bring public safety a meaningful option – one they can rely on without delay. We'll build on that groundwork in 2018 with transformative capabilities that will make FirstNet the most valuable communications system for first responders," Sambar said. "And since this is likely the biggest innovation that most first responders will see in their careers, we can't wait to bring it to as many emergency responders as possible."
Planned advancements that AT&T's FirstNet subscribers can expect in the new year are:
Increased coverage and capacity from AT&T's FirstNet build. Plus, access to mobile dedicated network assets that can be deployed for additional coverage and support when needed.
Launch of the AT&T-built FirstNet nationwide, dedicated evolved packet core network with end-to-end encryption. All FirstNet traffic will be routed through this multi-million-dollar core to give first responders the separate, highly secure, non-commercial network they deserve.
Access to a dedicated Security Operations Center, offering 24/7/365 support.
Roll out of a range of next-generation public safety tools. This includes mission-critical push-to-talk and device offerings, like BYOD, to bring value to urban and rural first responders.
Continued innovation with the FirstNet app ecosystem. This will be supported by FirstNet-focused hackathons in the new year to help fuel development.
"As first responders, we face an incredible amount of risk every day. So, to have a network that is focused on driving innovative capabilities to improve our safety is game changing," said Art Acevedo, Police Chief, Houston, Texas. "2017 was a pivotal year for public safety. And with the advancements planned for 2018, it's only going to get better."
Ken Briodagh is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience under his belt. He is in love with technology and if he had his druthers would beta test everything from shoe phones to flying cars.
Edited by Ken Briodagh