Major investment to evolve and expand FirstNet in US

Thursday, 15 February, 2024

Major investment to evolve and expand FirstNet in US

The FirstNet Authority and its network partner, AT&T, have announced 10-year, $8 billion investment in the future of FirstNet — the USA’s public safety network.

The FirstNet Authority plans to invest $6.3 billion through its network contract with AT&T and anticipates an additional $2 billion for ongoing investments in coverage enhancements for public safety, which is currently under discussion by the parties. The initiative is set to ensure that FirstNet remains at the forefront of technology, continues to solve the communications challenges facing public safety today and has the flexibility to adapt to public safety’s future needs.

AT&T has already grown FirstNet — the only network built with and for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community — to cover more first responders than any network nationwide. With more than 5.5 million connections and about 27,500 public safety agencies and organisations on FirstNet, first responders can communicate with one another during everyday operations, big events, emergencies in the field and more. This latest announcement launches the next phase of FirstNet and will include the following:

  • Providing public safety on FirstNet with always-on priority and pre-emption across all AT&T 5G commercial spectrum bands, starting in March.
  • Building thousands of new, purpose-built FirstNet cell sites across the country — including 1000 new sites within the next two years. Beyond the initial $6.3 billion investment, the FirstNet Authority anticipates additional investments over the next decade to deliver Band 14 coverage enhancements.
  • Creating a standalone 5G core to enhance current 5G functionality with specific public safety features on FirstNet and support the transition of public safety’s Band 14 spectrum from LTE to 5G.
  • Expanding mission-critical services — voice, video, data and location — to complement public safety’s localised, voice-only radio systems with reliable, wireless connectivity.
  • Upgrading public safety’s dedicated fleet of deployable network assets with 5G connectivity to improve operational safety, security and resiliency.
  • Readying the network to evolve beyond 5G, while remaining focused on public safety’s unique needs and emerging requirements when implementing future technological advancements.

With the initial buildout of FirstNet complete, the investment initiative will expand access to public safety’s Band 14 spectrum in the near term, with plans for additional coverage enhancements on a recurring basis. The FirstNet Authority will work closely with public safety across the states, territories and tribal lands to identify areas that could benefit from broader coverage. The FirstNet Authority will take this information into account, along with other public safety factors and network considerations, to ensure future coverage enhancements maximise investment dollars and make the biggest impact to public safety operations.

The transition to a full 5G network will meanwhile enable FirstNet to keep pace with current evolutions in technology and 3GPP standards-based mission-critical advancements. From using drones to transmit high-definition video during search and rescue operations, to opening the door to an influx of Internet of Things (IoT) data that will enhance situational awareness and improve emergency patient care, 5G is understood to be the foundation for the future of first responder-centric technologies.

The planned 5G network upgrades are set to generate faster speeds, increase capacity, enhance the quality of service for FirstNet users and drive innovations in 5G mission-critical services. Plus, by integrating 5G on FirstNet with 9-1-1, public safety should be able to leverage the full potential of this technology, allowing for a more informed and rapid response to emergencies. Throughout the multi-year transition to a full 5G network, the existing FirstNet 4G LTE network will remain fully operational and maintain the level of service that first responders have come to rely on.

“We are dedicated to the future of public safety communications, and that starts with expanding and evolving FirstNet to meet first responders’ needs,” said Joe Wassel, Executive Director and CEO of the FirstNet Authority. “With this investment, we are ensuring FirstNet remains at the forefront of technology so that public safety can respond smarter, safer and more effectively. I look forward to our continued partnership with the public safety community and AT&T to deliver the most reliable, innovative communications network for public safety.”

“FirstNet is critical infrastructure that is reliably connecting those who tirelessly protect and serve,” added Jim Bugel, President – FirstNet, AT&T. “With 5G, public safety will unlock new and innovative tools to keep them mission ready — and we aren’t stopping there.

“Together with the FirstNet Authority, we will continue to expand and enhance public safety’s network based on their feedback, giving them the solutions and connectivity they need, both now and in the future. That’s the FirstNet promise — continually prioritising first responders and the communities they serve.”

Image courtesy of First Responder Network Authority (via Flickr) under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Related Articles

One week on: AT&T's nationwide network outage

Any Australians who found themselves in the United States last week may have experienced a sense...

How MCX continued to evolve in 2023

The year 2023 was one of continuous evolution of the critical communications ecosystem towards...

St John WA selects Omnitronics for ambulance dispatch

St John WA has commenced implementation of the omnicore Enterprise Dispatch system, with the...

  • All content Copyright © 2024 Westwick-Farrow Pty Ltd