Mar 16 2018
Public Safety

AT&T Gets the Go-Ahead to Begin FirstNet Network Build Out

17 years after the nationwide first responder network was first imagined, AT&T has been given the “green light” to start building it.

It’s possible that the age of FirstNet has begun.

On March 7, the First Responder Network Authority, an independent agency within the Commerce Department, gave its partner AT&T the go-ahead to begin building the nationwide public safety broadband network.

In a deal announced last year, AT&T won a 25-year, $46 billion contract to build and maintain the Band 14 network — the Band class 14 in the 700 MHz band, which has been set aside for public safety. When not in use for emergencies, however, AT&T can use it for commercial business, StateScoop reports.

With all 50 states firmly on board with the network — after much deliberation on the part of governors everywhere — the project that has been 17 years in the making can take shape across the country.

“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 in a press release. “I want to thank all of our state and public safety partners who worked so hard with us over the last several years to ensure FirstNet will meet the needs of America’s first responders. The network they asked for is on the way.”

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What’s Next for FirstNet

With AT&T contracted to bring FirstNet to 95 percent of the U.S. population within five years, Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president for FirstNet, says that the company is confident it can accomplish the feat within its deadline.

“We’re not waiting — no way,” Sambar said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We know what needs to be done, and we know that public safety needs this now. They’ve been waiting a long time, so let’s get it done quickly for them … The bottom line is that we’re getting the work done now, and we’re going to turn it up as soon as we can.”

In fact, the contractor has already begun putting up cell towers.

“With Band 14, we’ve already started the work, putting it up on towers across the U.S. As you recall, we have five years to put it up … but we’re going to move a lot faster than that, because we want to get it up sooner rather than later,” Sambar added.

By the end of March, the company expects to have up and running the FirstNet “core,” through which all public safety traffic will be processed, says Sambar.

Once operational, the project promises to offer end-to-end encryption, 24/7/365 reliability and security, local control and mission-critical functions.

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