IE11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

AT&T and FirstNet to Spend $8B on First Responder Network

The First Responder Network Authority plans to invest $6.3 billion through its network contract with Dallas telecommunications giant AT&T.

A national public safety communications network will receive an $8 billion investment over the next 10 years to expand 5G capabilities and mission-critical services, the First Responder Network Authority and AT&T announced this week.

The First Responder Network Authority, known as FirstNet, plans to invest $6.3 billion through its network contract with Dallas telecommunications giant AT&T, the official partner of the independent authority. The group anticipates an additional $2 billion for ongoing investments in public safety coverage enhancements.

Beginning in March, FirstNet will provide public safety with priority across all AT&T 5G commercial spectrum bands, meaning that first responders will have broader and faster coverage. It marks the multiyear transition to a full 5G network, during which the current FirstNet 4G LTE network will remain fully operational.

Congress established FirstNet in 2012 in response to communications problems after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s a nationwide broadband network created specifically for first responders so that they can work even during times of emergency. FirstNet got $7 billion in initial funding that came from Federal Communications Commission spectrum auction revenue.

FirstNet selected AT&T to build and manage the network in 2017, creating a public-private partnership with more than 5.5 million connections and 27,500 public safety organizations.

FirstNet is a dedicated spectrum just for first responders that covers 250,000 square miles more than commercial networks, which is just under the size of Texas. If public safety teams need more coverage, AT&T can prioritize their connections on a normal AT&T spectrum, said Scott Agnew, head of FirstNet operations for AT&T.

This 10-year investment will create a standalone 5G core, or the “brains” of the network, Agnew said. 5G networks can connect to more devices in the same location than previous network generations, which is important in crowded emergency situations where hundreds or thousands of people are trying to connect to the network at once.

The project will also include construction of 1,000 cell sites within the next two years.

While AT&T is the only service provider to partner with the FirstNet Authority, other telecommunications companies have their own options for public safety providers. Verizon offers the service through its Frontline program, while T-Mobile works with first responder agencies through its Connecting Heroes plan.

©2024 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.