AT&T yesterday announced that more than 1,000 public-safety agencies in 52 states and territories have joined FirstNet, which is surpassing expectations in meeting key milestones for adoption, deployment and technical capabilities, according to FirstNet board members.
FirstNet agencies include 11 state patrol agencies, tribal public-safety agencies, volunteer first responders, utilities and school districts, according to AT&T. Almost 100,000 FirstNet connections have been used by public-safety agencies to provide communications during myriad response efforts, according to an AT&T press release.
“I think that’s very exciting, and I think we’re already seeing examples where that is making a huge difference for the interaction—both voice and data—between the agencies that they didn’t have before,” FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson said during this week’s FirstNet board meeting. “They’ve had situations where, as a result, they’ve been more effective in their goal to save lives—not only their own, but the lives of the people they’re protecting.”
Swenson noted that FirstNet’s subscriber-paid—or bring your own devices (BYOD)—offering is “fairly unique in the market” and that deployable assets already have been utilized on numerous occasions. In addition, key components of the FirstNet ecosystem are progressing well, with 31 approved devices and a significant number of applications completing the vetting process for use on the FirstNet network, she said.
“All of this is happening at a time when I think people thought it would be a couple of years before they saw this service available,” Swenson said. “I think it’s exciting that we’re making this amount of progress frankly so early into the project.”
FirstNet board member Neil Cox, chairman of the FirstNet Technical Committee, emphasized the importance of the dedicated FirstNet core network, which he described as “really the bedrock of what we’re doing” to provide a nationwide broadband network to public safety.
“It’s not some virtual private network or some MVNO-type thing; this is the fifth network in the United States,” Cox said during the FirstNet board meeting. “It is a dedicated core. It is a dedicated cellular network. It has its own billing and collections. It has its own network monitoring. This is an extremely, extremely important aspect of what we have.
“This is the network for public safety … I don’t know if we talk enough about that, but this network is built to standards like no other network out there. It’s very important that we remember that.”
Mark Golaszewski, FirstNet’s director of applications, echoed this sentiment, noting that the FirstNet system benefits from “dedicated security monitoring of the network 24/7/365.”
FirstNet also lets “primary” public-safety subscribers determine when “extended primary” FirstNet subscribers—for instance, certain personnel at a utility, government or school district—can be “uplifted” in real time to receive high-level, preemptive access to the FirstNet system when their communications are deemed to be crucial to the response effort for an incident, Golaszewski said.
Primary public-safety agencies with little or no budget to pay for their personnel to have broadband services can utilize a FirstNet subscriber-paid—or bring your own device (BYOD)—offering recently made available nationwide at 5,300 AT&T retail stores and online outlets, according to an AT&T official.
Many in the public-safety community have focused on the FirstNet adoption trends of agencies that currently purchase broadband services from AT&T or another commercial wireless carrier, a large percentage of first responders have limited—or no—funding to pay for broadband connectivity. In such cases, agencies may choose to have their personnel own their own devices, using them for both personal activities and emergency work.
Given this, providing a BYOD alternative is “very important” to public safety, according to Scott Agnew, AT&T’s assistant vice president for FirstNet solutions.
“If you look at it, 70% of all firefighters are volunteers, which makes up about 800,000 users,” Agnew said yesterday during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “It’s a large group, and it’s national. Generally, those individuals are bring-your-own-device [users].
“And, there are countless auxiliary law-enforcement users, as well as departments that just do not have the money to fund devices for end users. In order for them to get the powerful FirstNet tool, they can have the individual bring their own device, so that individual can have the priority, preemption and all of the value that FirstNet brings.”
FirstNet CEO Mike Poth echoed this sentiment.
“FirstNet is for every responder. Whether you are a career or volunteer member of the public safety community, FirstNet is your network,” Poth said in a prepared statement. “The launch of the subscriber-paid offer shows that FirstNet is doing exactly what it’s designed to do—support our first responders, when and where they need it. Now, in communities across America, we can help ensure that this groundbreaking technology quickly gets into the hands of any first responder to help them save lives and protect communities.”
Under the subscriber-paid model, a public-safety agency identifies the personnel who should have access to the FirstNet system, and each potential end user is given an activation code that can be used to subscribe to FirstNet online or at one of 5,300 AT&T retail outlets nationwide. Although AT&T has supported subscriber-paid subscriptions for months, last week’s announcement marked the launch of the BYOD offer being “generally available” nationwide, Agnew said.
Only personnel meeting the criteria of a primary FirstNet user—those in fire, EMS, law enforcement, public-safety answering points (PSAPs) and emergency-management centers—can utilize the subscriber-paid offering for a single device, Agnew said. “Extended primary” users—for instance, utility or healthcare employees—are not eligible for the BYOD package, he said.
Thanks to AT&T, volunteer, part-time, and on-call first responders now have access to the FirstNet communications system. FirstNet is AT&T’s dedicated cell network that’s available only to first responders during emergencies. It lets these workers directly communicate with each other using FirstNet-compatible phones. Until recently, this service was only available to full-time first responders in larger cities. Thanks to AT&T, the network is open to all first responders, which improves emergency services across the country.
AT&T was inspired to develop its FirstNet network after noting the difficulties some first responders had during emergency situation, including school shootings. These tragic often result in different agencies responding to the scene. With each department or agency on a different radio, coordination between everyone became difficult. Some departments and personnel tried using their cellphones, but found the lines clogged by other people calling in to find out news of their loved ones.
AT&T recognized the difficulties that first responders faced, the corporation set out to provide a better emergency communication system. Given its vast experience in all things communications, the corporation obtained a contract from the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) to make FirstNet. AT&T installed FirstNet towers all across the country. While the solution worked great for those who were granted access, this arrangement left out volunteer, part-time, and on-call responders who pay for their own cell phone plans.
AT&T officials quickly realized that volunteer first responders needed access to FirstNet as much as their big city counterparts. AT&T quickly fixed this by opening up the FirstNet system to volunteer, on-call, and part-time emergency workers. AT&T hasn’t stated how this is possible. It’s likely that volunteer responders must provide a letter from their municipality or safety agency to gain FirstNet access. Whichever way it happens, the important thing is that it’s happening. This means that all community first responders have access to this emergency communications system.
This latest improvement is one of many that AT&T has in store for FirstNet. The corporation will continue to build and improve upon this emergency communications service. Fine-tuning all existing FirstNet towers for improved performance is one of the first things AT&T is doing. It also has plans to install more towers in new areas. This will likely improve service for first responders and even regular AT&T customers. This is good news for everyone!
Public-safety adoption of FirstNet is proceeding well during the first months of the first-responder network being available, and the pace of change within the sector could accelerate in the future, according to FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson.
“FirstNet has had pretty good progress in a year—I think it’s pretty amazing, frankly,” Swenson said yesterday during her keynote address at the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Broadband Stakeholders conference. “I think people are surprised at the pace and the speed that this happening, and I think you will continue to be surprised with the pace.”
Last March, FirstNet announced AT&T as its contractor to build, maintain and upgrade its nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN). Last December, governors for all 56 states and territories completed their “opt-in” decisions. This year, AT&T completed the dedicated FirstNet core network, began deploying equipment to support 700 MHz Band 14 operations, and initiated sales of FirstNet services to public safety throughout the country.
FirstNet could have a transformative impact on the way that public-safety agencies operate, much as wireless technology has had on other segments of society, Swenson said, citing the use of wireline telephony as an example.
“When we first started talking about Leap [Wireless, now Cricket] as a product, people said, ‘Who’s going to disconnect their landline? Who’s going to actually do that?’” Swenson said. “We said, ‘I think it’s going to happen faster than you realize.’
The effective delivery of critical communications is crucial to ensuring public safety and to enabling businesses to protect personnel and property during major planned and unplanned events. At the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution, the industry is looking to see how 5G, big data, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) can be harnessed to further enhance critical communications in the context of an everchanging technological landscape.
Critical communications is the one area of telecommunications that needs to cope with various requests, services, speeds and unpredictability of required capacity. 5G is all about providing next-level flexibility, coverage, capacity, security, data rate and low latency. Therefore, it is the ideal network to deliver a wide variety of services across different environments in a highly efficient and robust way. For example, 5G networks will use context-aware mapping of services to technologies and will be able to make dynamic decisions on which resources to use to deliver each service, guaranteeing the appropriate level of service quality needed in the most efficient way possible.
Able to fly in tough conditions, AT&T’s all-weather Flying COW drone will help first responders, FirstNet. AT&T has designed an all-weather drone to keep its wireless network “flying” in a disaster. The all-weather Flying COW drone — designed by AT&T with help from manufacturers and first responders — will be one of two types of drones that AT&T will offer for its Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) system.
AT&T designed the “Extreme-Weather Drone” to be able to fly through rain or snow and handle tropical wind gusts up to 50 mph. It can handle extreme temperatures (both hot and below freezing).
“This is an octocopter drone – a multi-rotor. Four arms with eight rotors on it,” Art Pregler, AT&T’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) program director, told RCR Wireless News.
The all-weather Flying COW drone was designed by AT&T working with manufacturers. The drone was built by AT&T in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which has contracted with AT&T to provide a nationwide public safety network for first responders.
“Unlike a lot of drones where the drone manufacturer comes up with a drone design and then they try to weather-proof it as an afterthought, this drone was designed as an all-weather drone from the initial paper,” says Pregler. “The motors are facing down, the way the air flows through it, even inside of it — the tubes of the structure itself …. Thought was put into the temperatures that it would be operating in, the rain conditions, the snow conditions. It was optimized for that purpose.”
AT&T plans to deploy public-safety LTE service on 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum more quickly than expected, with about one-third of the projected buildout to be completed by next April, according to AT&T Chief Financial Officer (CFO) John Stephens.
“We’ll touch 10,000-plus towers by the end of the year,” Stephens said yesterday during the Cowen Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. “We have metrics that are part of public record with regard to FirstNet with regard to hitting 31% of the overall build scheme by the [end of the] first quarter of next year. I would expect that we would not only hit that but beat that.
“Our network guys are focused like a laser on this, and their limits are on what they can do efficiently, not necessarily just meeting a goal of the FirstNet authority. We would much rather get it done quicker—it makes sense, as long as we can do it efficiently.”
A primary component to meeting the efficiency goal is the fact that AT&T—FirstNet’s contractor to build and maintain a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) for the next 25 years—will deploy equipment enabling operations on the carrier’s AWS-3 and WCS spectrum at the same time that the Band 14 functionality is enabled, Stephens said.
“In building this out, we’re going to go to a cell site, and we’re going to take the 700 [MHz Band 14 spectrum] and we are going to put it on,” he said. “While we’re climbing that tower, we’re going to put our AWS-3 [spectrum] that we bought in the last auction that isn’t fully in service, and we are going to take the WCS that we’ve owned for some years and put in service.
“So, we are going to get three bands of spectrum up, with one … tower climb, and it is going to be really really efficient—especially when the government is paying you for their people through the FirstNet reimbursement program.”
AT&T plans to leverage its investment in FirstNet to expand its rural coverage, harden its network and prepare all of the carrier’s cell sites to support 5G services via software upgrades, according to AT&T executives.
Last March, AT&T was announced as FirstNet’s contractor to build a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN), in return for access to 20 MHz of Band 14 700 MHz spectrum licensed to FirstNet and $6.5 billion that would be paid to the carrier as it meets deployment milestones.
By law, the FirstNet system is supposed to provide public safety with communications in rural areas. John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, said the company’s rural efforts will not be limited to first-responder service.
AT&T said FirstNet will require it to touch every single tower in its network. AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson told an audience at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference that AT&T will double LTE speeds for its customers in 500 markets this year.
"As we exit this year, we will have 500 markets with that full capability in place, where the LTE speeds will double," he said. "Now take that across the entire footprint. Before you've even gotten to 5G, you have now doubled your LTE performance."
Stephenson said the work AT&T is doing to build out the FirstNet public safety network will deliver the faster LTE speeds. He said the FirstNet deployment is now underway.
"We have to climb every cell site to deploy the FirstNet architecture," he said. "As we're climbing every single cell site, putting somebody on every single tower, we will be, by virtue of carrier aggregation, standing up all of the spectrum in our portfolio. We now have, with FirstNet, 60 megahertz of fallow spectrum. As people are up on the tower, we'll be launching the carriers to stand up all of that spectrum, put all that spectrum to use. It's really important; we call that 5G Evolution."
AT&T's 5G Evolution technologies include massive MIMO and 256 QAM, capabilities that Stephenson said are being added to the towers along with the FirstNet spectrum. Stephenson said that as AT&T adds these technologies to its cell sites, it will simultaneously be equipping every cell site for 5G. He reiterated a point AT&T and its competitors have made frequently in recent months: When standards-based 5G equipment hits the market, carriers will be able to roll out 5G via software upgrades. Stephenson also underscored the importance of fiber to 5G and to FirstNet.
"We can't talk about FirstNet without talking about our fiber deployment, without talking about our 5G deployment ... and without talking about carrier aggregation and standing up all the spectrum in our portfolio," he said. "When we won the FirstNet bid, we were given a charge by the U.S. government to extend our network, to densify our network, [to add] more cell site coverage throughout rural America, [and to] to harden our network, meaning making it resilient in storms."
Utility companies can subscribe to FirstNet as “extended primary” users of the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) being deployed by AT&T, but utilities would not be eligible to receive preemptive access rights to the system unless such access was activated temporarily by a traditional public-safety entity, according to AT&T.
“As an extended-primary subscriber, a utility company providing public safety services in support of first responders has the option to purchase First Priority’s™ priority-access and data-prioritization features to help prioritize and support their critical communications for data/signaling needs,” AT&T said in a prepared statement provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
Not all utility communications would be eligible for extended-primary use on the FirstNet system and the accompanying prioritization over consumer traffic, according to an AT&T spokesperson. For instance, sales and marketing personnel for a utility would not be eligible, because they would not have a role in supporting public safety, the spokesperson said.
NTIA is providing an initial increment of funding in the first nine months of the SLIGP 2.0 program and a second increment for the next 15 months. The initial funding totaled $12.6 million, while the second funding increment, expected to be disbursed in the last quarter of calendar year 2018, will deliver another $20 million to $22 million to these same grant awards.
NTIA announced the initial awards March 1 to 12 states and continued making additional SLIGP 2.0 grants in March and April.
The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 directed NTIA to establish a grant program to assist states and territories with planning for FirstNet. Between July 2013 and June 2014, NTIA awarded $116.5 million in grants to 54 U.S. states and territories to consult with FirstNet and perform outreach to public-safety stakeholders.
The original grants expired Feb. 28, and many recipients spent less than expected, leaving leftover funds. NTIA’s SLIGP 2.0 program used the leftover funds for a second round of grants to allow for a broader range of planning activities, such as assisting state, local and tribal governments in developing data sharing agreements, helping with the transition of public-safety applications to the national public-safety broadband network, analyzing coverage gaps, and convening stakeholder meetings at FirstNet’s request.
April 24, 2018
The architecture for interworking between mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT) and legacy LMR systems was completed and approved at the latest Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) meetings 19 – 23 March in Chennia, India.
The Service and System Aspects (SA) plenary completed the remaining work on the Stage 2 architecture development technical specification for LMR and MCPTT interworking, said Dean Prochaska, director of standards for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), in a blog.
The LMR to MCPTT interworking project was granted an exception at the last plenary meeting to continue the work for a few more months, and the extension allowed delegates to complete all planned Release 15 Stage 2 work. However, it will be challenging to complete all work on the suite of LMR interworking specifications by the original target date of June 2018, Prochaska said.
Work also continued on re-naming the mission-critical specifications to remove the limiting “over Long Term Evolution (LTE)” wording so existing specifications can be reused for 5G and future generations. Renaming Stage 1 specifications was completed at the last plenary meeting, and some initial Stage 2 mission-critical specifications changes on titles and references were completed. This work will continue because Stage 2 contains more detailed technical design specifications that will take more time to evaluate and modify to generalize beyond LTE.
In addition, new Stage 2 studies have commenced on enhancing both location services and the IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) architecture for 5G. These two study items are important to address public-safety needs for location-based services as well as to improve the IMS core performance, a key element in the mission-critical services architecture.
FirstNet Has Arrived: What EMS Professionals Need to Know about Public Safety’s Broadband Network
April 18, 2018
For many years, I’ve been talking to my fellow paramedics and colleagues in EMS about the promise of FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband network. There were a lot of “whens” and “ifs” and “we expect” in those discussions.
Today, it’s exciting to no longer have to say this groundbreaking tool is coming soon. FirstNet has arrived. Currently, our network partner, AT&T, offers priority and preemption to first responders over its existing network as it expands FirstNet nationwide. The connection that FirstNet provides is helping first responders do their lifesaving mission more efficiently and effectively.
At our recent FirstNet Board Meeting in Little Rock, we heard from two Arkansas agencies that have adopted FirstNet. Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) serves more than half a million residents in and around Little Rock. MEMS Executive Director John Swanson says having another layer of redundancy and additional capabilities drove the agency’s decision to subscribe to FirstNet.
For the City of Bay, Arkansas, a rural community in the northeast part of the state, both the police and fire department have integrated FirstNet. Being on the same public safety network has enabled better communications between the agencies, according to Police Chief Paul Keith.
Now that FirstNet is here, this is what public safety should know about it.
Two Sides of an Innovative Partnership
In March 2017, the First Responder Network Authority selected AT&T as its private sector partner to build and deploy FirstNet to meet public safety’s needs. After the award, the two organizations worked together to issue customized plans to each U.S. state and territory. By January 2018, every governor had chosen to accept the FirstNet plan, meaning that the network is being deployed faster than we ever imagined and will truly be nationwide.
In this innovative public-private partnership, AT&T is responsible for connecting public safety subscribers to FirstNet; building and developing the service; and responding to customer needs, questions, and issues. The First Responder Network Authority is more than the government side of the partnership: we also bring significant public safety expertise, experience, and relationships to the table. Our role involves overseeing the contract with AT&T and being the voice of public safety as we advocate for every aspect of the network’s deployment and development.
FirstNet Buildout is in Progress
The First Responder Network Authority recently announced the launch of the nationwide buildout of FirstNet. AT&T has already hit the ground running on deploying FirstNet’s public safety radio spectrum (Band 14) and is investing heavily in expanding it. This radio spectrum can only be accessed via FirstNet/AT&T. It will expand broadband coverage where public safety needs it, especially in rural areas, and add capacity in population centers.
AT&T is also providing public safety with access to its existing LTE network with priority and the ability to preempt all other network traffic. This means that EMS agencies can have access to a dedicated network that connects to lifesaving data today. We don’t have to wait for a network to be built from the ground up.
With FirstNet, priority and preemption is “always on”—EMS users won’t have to take any action to enable these public safety features. This means that even services which require high speeds and greater bandwidth, like video streaming, will be available to paramedics and EMTs when the general public nearby is unable to access the Internet via a mobile device due to heavy use and congestion on commercial networks. Priority and preemption are available on FirstNet every day, and for every emergency.
The FirstNet Core Has Launched
In March of this year, AT&T also launched the FirstNet core—which serves as the “brains” and “nervous system” of the FirstNet network. The dedicated FirstNet core is built on physically separate hardware for a highly secure network and essentially separates public safety traffic from commercial traffic. The First Responder Network Authority’s engineers and experts have conducted additional testing and validation to ensure the core network stands up to public safety’s needs.
The FirstNet core brings public safety’s dedicated network to life. The first-ever nationwide LTE core infrastructure built specifically for our nation’s first responder community, it enables end-to-end encryption of public safety’s data and voice transmissions. The security of the core will also be monitored around the clock by a dedicated security team.
Additionally, FirstNet’s core enables priority and preemption and introduces a local control framework that unlocks different levels of priority. This puts more control into the hands of local public safety. For a particularly intense or long incident, local control is another tool to ensuring the network supports the most effective and efficient response.
The dedicated core is benefitting public safety now, and over the next several years, the core will enable additional mission critical features for EMS and other first responders, such as mission critical push-to-talk and location based services.
FirstNet is Fostering Innovation Driven by Public Safety
As we have done since our creation, the First Responder Network Authority is actively consulting with public safety nationwide. FirstNet continues to learn how paramedics use data and how we may best share data to get our jobs done. We are also looking at how paramedics can use advanced technologies to address unique challenges and better serve our patients.
In February, I spent a couple days at a FirstNet Stakeholder Innovations Forum hosted by the Houston Police Department. Over the course of the session, participants generated pioneering ideas and identified operational needs that could be addressed with applications and tools running over FirstNet.
The First Responder Network Authority’s Public Safety Advocacy team will be hosting more events like this, meeting with practitioners, and working hand-in-hand with our technology and innovation team to bring the feedback of practitioners into the development of applications and tools that will run on the network. The goal is to accelerate the transition of commercially focused technology for the benefit of public safety users and inspire and nurture a vibrant technology and applications developer community.
The First Responder Network Authority has also designed and built a state-of-the-art innovation and test lab where our engineers validate that approved public safety applications, devices, and tools are working properly on FirstNet. The lab will also serve as an innovation and experience center for public safety users.
FirstNet Association Forms to Bridge Gap with Users, Vendors
April 04, 2018
Al Gillespie, past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), will serve as president. Ray Flynn, retired assistant sheriff from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and Richard Mirgon, past president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, will also lead the association.
“Public-safety professionals must have access to the women and men who touch every portion of the network, from the individuals developing the hardware and software platforms that will operate on the network, to those crafting policies and regulations that will shape how the network is used,” said Gillespie. “Connecting end users with the people responsible for the network's success will help ensure the FirstNet network evolves into the best possible version of itself.”
FirstNet, AT&T announce public-safety LTE core; AT&T exec dismisses Verizon interoperability concerns
March 27, 2018
FirstNet today announced that nationwide contractor AT&T has delivered upon its promise to complete a dedicated public-safety LTE evolved packet core to serve FirstNet subscribers on schedule, while a key AT&T official dismissed concerns of communications issues between FirstNet and Verizon subscribers.
“One year ago this week, following a rigorous procurement process, we formed a public-private partnership with AT&T to execute on public safety’s vision for this network,” FirstNet CTO Jeff Bratcher states in a blog post published today on FirstNet’s web site. “This includes the construction of a dedicated, robust, highly available and redundant distributed core infrastructure.
“This week, AT&T has met another monumental contractual milestone by launching and delivering the FirstNet core to the First Responder Network Authority. The input and feedback we received from public safety has come to life with this core.”
Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president for FirstNet, echoed this sentiment.
“The launch of the network core comes a year into the FirstNet public-private partnership. It’s been a non-stop 12 months. And we’re proud of the quick progress we’ve made in this short timeframe, consistently delivering on or ahead of schedule,” Sambar said in a prepared statement. “But bringing the FirstNet network core to life is one of the most exciting milestones yet.”
As for concerns about interoperability between FirstNet subscribers and users of Verizon—the current market-share leader for public-safety broadband that also announced its public-safety LTE core today—Sambar said he does not believe an issue exists, describing it as “more smoke and mirrors from Verizon” in a statement provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications
“Verizon knows full well that its customers will be able to communicate with FirstNet customers, and vice versa, because both networks interconnect per industry standards,” Sambar said. “The truth is AT&T-FirstNet and Verizon spoke to each other on this exact topic about six months ago. There is nothing else to discuss, as far as we’re concerned.”
Public-safety entities have been able to enter into FirstNet service contracts since their state’s governor announced their “opt-in” decisions during latter half of 2017, and FirstNet subscribers have had priority and preemption functionality across AT&T’s commercial network for months.
But the launch of the FirstNet evolved packet core “built on physically separate hardware” means first responders have a separate broadband network and that “FirstNet traffic is separated end to end, as the FirstNet core completely separates public safety’s traffic from all commercial traffic,” according to a statement from Sambar provided to IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
For first-responder agencies, key capabilities enabled by the launch of the FirstNet core include:
First Priority—In addition to basic priority and preemption functionality, public-safety agencies will have the ability to assign priority levels on a real-time basis, based on local-control decisions made during an emergency response. In total, there will be three priority levels within given to first responders, and “extended primary” users like utilities or transportation can be granted a top priority level, if the need arises.
Incident Management Portal—The dynamic-prioritization capabilities enabled by First Priority will be executed in the Incident Management Portal, which gives public safety the ability to execute traffic-management decisions in near real time.
End-to-end encryption—Public-safety users will be able to transmit encrypted data securely across LTE-enabled devices. The core includes VPN solutions that comply with the FIPS 140-2 standard, as well as encryption at the radio, transport and network core layers.
Monitoring, reliability and availability—Tested and certified by FirstNet, the dedicated public-safety LTE core will be monitored at all times by a dedicated team at the Security Operations Centers. Network elements of the core are located in different areas of the country to provide the geographic redundancy needed to enable the network’s 99.99% end-to-end service availability.
Next-generation public-safety capabilities—Much-anticipated applications and services like mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT), location-based offerings that can provide even Z-axis information and others are expected to leverage functionality that is only available through the dedicated FirstNet core.
AT&T launches the base of its FirstNet public safety network
March 27, 2018
After roughly a year of partnership, AT&T's LTE-based FirstNet public safety network is starting to come alive -- the carrier has launched the service's network core nationwide. The rollout provides the foundation for a communications network devoted solely to emergency crews, with multiple priority levels and toughened security that includes around-the-clock monitoring. This doesn't represent full-fledged service, but it's now more a matter of weeks than months.
AT&T is in the midst of a "controlled introduction" that gives first responders a relatively limited set of features. Cities will still have to connect their sites to the network core to make it truly useful. The provider expects to start moving more of its clients to FirstNet sometime between April and May, however. Also, the network core launch enables the use of FirstNet-friendly devices that are already either on the market or on the way, such as the Galaxy S9 or Netgear's Nighthawk M1 mobile router. Ultimately, the hope is to have a full FirstNet experience within five years.
After years of criticism for slow-moving and costly progress, the First Responder Network Authority in March issued a task order to begin building radio access networks in all 56 states and territories using Band 14.
Band 14 is the 20-MHz spectrum the government designated specifically for FirstNet, the country’s first cellular network dedicated to public-safety use. Available only to FirstNet subscribers, Band 14 will cover at least 95 percent of the U.S. population, giving responders access to more coverage and capacity than ever.
“We hold the nationwide license to the Band 14 spectrum – we being the FirstNet Authority – and that’s been provided to AT&T as part of our 25-year contract with them to build the dedicated FirstNet network,” FirstNet CTO Jeff Bratcher explained. FirstNet operates in the 700 MHz band.
“It provides good propagation in urban and rural areas, penetrating buildings and walls easily and covering larger geographic areas with less infrastructure,” Chris Sambar, senior vice president at AT&T-FirstNet, said in an email. “Band 14 also enables high-power user equipment with the ability to radiate at levels six times that typically allowed on an LTE system. This means we can extend the range of our existing network much further than it reaches today.”
AT&T to Release RFP for Second Carrier-Integrated MCPTT Offering
March 14, 2018
AT&T signed a product agreement with Motorola Solutions for its Kodiak carrier-integrated PTT product, along with the eventual MCPTT version of the Kodiak service, said Chris Sambar, AT&T FirstNet senior vice president.
“We are in the process of developing that [MCPTT service] in conjunction with them,” Sambar said.
He said because there are likely to be multiple MCPTT solutions on the market, AT&T plans to offer at least two carrier-integrated MCPTT solutions. “The FirstNet requirement is at least two,” Sambar said. “FirstNet doesn’t want to see a single vendor lock-in, and the providers must follow MCPTT standards. … Interoperability is important.”
“FirstNet recognizes the importance of open standards and competition to deliver the best solution for public safety,” said a FirstNet spokeswoman when asked if FirstNet’s contract with AT&T requires two carrier-integrated MCPTT options. “As such, AT&T has committed to providing options for MCPTT, and we will continue to work with public safety and AT&T to ensure the FirstNet PTT solution for public safety complies with MCPTT standards and promotes appropriate competition for public safety while delivering the desired user experience.”
First Responder Network Authority task order gives AT&T green light for Band 14 deployment across statewide radio access networks in every state, territory and Washington D.C.
March 7, 2018
FirstNet’s nationwide footprint is expanding. The First Responder Network Authority has given its partner, AT&T, the green light to build out FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband network. This includes deploying public safety’s dedicated spectrum – Band 14 – across statewide radio access networks in states and territories 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. “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.”
With this action, the First Responder Network Authority is initiating network expansion and enhancing coverage nationwide. This will be done through the deployment of Band 14– public safety spectrum licensed nationwide to the First Responder Network Authority. As the First Responder Network Authority’s partner, only AT&T can implement Band 14 and give first responders access to its unique attributes. The buildout will increase coverage and capacity for first responders in every state and territory, including those in rural areas.
The nationwide expansion will help give public safety service when it matters most and enable them to take full advantage of FirstNet’s advanced broadband technologies for their lifesaving mission. It will also bring innovation, investments and job creation to the states and territories. Currently, FirstNet services, including priority and preemption, are available over AT&T’s existing nationwide multi-band network, allowing first responders to immediately benefit from the FirstNet solution.
“This is an exciting time for FirstNet and public safety, as we build out the statewide RANs and connect them to the dedicated FirstNet core network,” said First Responder Network Authority CTO Jeff Bratcher. “This will be the first-ever and only dedicated core infrastructure built specifically for public safety in the country. No wireless provider has done this until now.”
The FirstNet core remains on schedule for delivery. It is being built to the specifications provided by the First Responder Network Authority, which were developed through years of consultation with first responders in every state/territory and at all levels of government.
Once implemented, the dedicated FirstNet core network will be the foundation for the delivery of advanced public safety features unique to FirstNet, including:
End-to-end encryption. The FirstNet core comes with FIPS 140-2 compliant VPN solutions, radio, transport and network core encryption, and advanced physical and logical security protocols to keep all traffic on the network protected.
Round the clock security monitoring. The FirstNet core will be monitored at all times by a dedicated Security Operations Center with a dedicated team. Their sole focus will be to monitor the security of the network.
Superior reliability and availability. The FirstNet core will help enable the network’s 99.99% end-to-end service availability objective. There will be multiple geographically distributed locations nationwide that house core network elements to enable redundancy and performance.
Local control. The FirstNet core will unlock different levels of priority paired with a local control interface. This means incident commanders and eligible first responders can boost priority levels to best support specific situational responses.
Mission critical functions. The FirstNet core will deliver a range of next-generation public safety capabilities that are currently being developed based upon open standards specific for public safety. Going forward, these will include services such as Mission-Critical Push-to-Talk, enhanced location-based services and more.
AT&T is contracted to build, maintain and upgrade the FirstNet nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN), and the telecom giant has agreed to provide preemptive access to “primary” FirstNet subscribers—fire, EMS, law-enforcement, 911 and emergency-operations-centers users.
However, the process for determining who else is eligible to access the FirstNet system—the “extended primary” subscribers—has been more complicated, because there are so many varied uses cases for certain personnel to support a public-safety response, according to Walt Rivenbark, AT&T’s assistant vice president for public safety and FirstNet.
“We’re listening to customers,” Rivenbark said yesterday during an IWCE 2018 workshop. “We don’t think we have it all figured out.”
Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president for FirstNet, expressed a similar sentiment during an interview last week with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
“The definition of primary and extended primary was not a hard-and-fast definition in the contract—purposely—and we’re kind of learning as we go,” Sambar said. “We keep getting different [extended-primary] use cases every day.”
Under federal procurement rules, AT&T—named last March as FirstNet’s nationwide contractor—cannot get paid for its deployment work until it receives the network task order from FirstNet, said Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president for FirstNet. But the telecom giant is not letting the absence of a task order slow its Band 14 deployment efforts, he said.
“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.
Annual Report Outlines Year of Progress Leading to Launch of FirstNet Network
Fwbruary 27, 2018
Each February – the month that Congress established FirstNet – we submit our annual report to Congress on the progress FirstNet has made to deliver the nationwide public safety broadband network.
As we look back to Fiscal Year 2017 (FY 17), I am proud to say that FirstNet is now a reality. Major steps were taken to deliver on the promise of an interoperable, wireless broadband network to help first responders save lives and protect communities across the country. This is the network that public safety fought for – a network with true priority and ruthless preemption services that will evolve as wireless technology evolves.
While there is much work to be done, the First Responder Network Authority accomplished three significant goals on its path to deploying FirstNet in FY 17: the award of the FirstNet contract; the delivery of State Plans and subsequent opt ins; and significant steps toward network operations and innovation for public safety.
In March 2017, we awarded a 25-year contract to AT&T to build, deploy, maintain, and operate FirstNet. The best value award created a unique public-private partnership that brings together the resources and public safety focus of the First Responder Network Authority, with the private sector operational and technical expertise of our partner.
Less than three months later, we delivered the FirstNet State Plans to governors in the states and territories ahead of schedule. These individual buildout plans for the radio access networks in each state or territory were a culmination of four years of outreach and consultation with public safety stakeholders. This resulted in another major accomplishment -- all 56 states and territories opting in to FirstNet by the end of the governor’s decision period.
Concurrent with the delivery, review, and approval of State Plans, the First Responder Network Authority and AT&T also set up the operational processes for the network. With the launch of FirstNet.com, future FirstNet users can find more information on FirstNet products and services. To establish a path for continual innovation for public safety, we are ramping up work at the FirstNet Innovation and Test Lab, which opened in November 2016. And finally, the FirstNet App Developer Program launched to attract public safety applications for our growing marketplace.
Moving forward, we will continue to work directly with public safety stakeholders and industry to improve and enhance new capabilities for public safety communications. To that end, the First Responder Network Authority is pleased that our Tribal Consultation Policy went into effect this January, as we continue to ensure that the voice of first responders everywhere, including federally recognized tribes, are accounted for as we deploy FirstNet nationwide.
The work for deploying and operationalizing FirstNet is only beginning. With the deployment of Band 14 spectrum and the state radio access networks (RANs), the launch of FirstNet’s core infrastructure on the horizon, and work on public safety adoption - FirstNet is set for another year of major milestones. We look forward to moving ahead together with public safety as we ensure this network meets their life-saving needs.
Click to View FirstNet Annual Report FY 2017
Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones—unveiled yesterday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona—are approved FirstNet devices that operate on the 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum licensed to FirstNet, according to officials for FirstNet and its nationwide contractor, AT&T.
“By the end of March, first-responder subscribers can use the Galaxy S9/S9+ to tap into the full power of FirstNet,” according to an AT&T press release directed to the public-safety community. “This includes access to critical capabilities, like First Priority, which includes both priority and preemption, so you can experience a reliable, highly secure and always-on connection to the information you need.”
Samsung’s Galaxy S9 has a 5.8-inch screen, while the S9+ has a 6.2-inch screen and additional camera features. Both devices are IP68 rated for water and dust resistance and will be commercially available on March 16, beginning at a single-device cost of $719.99 for the S9 and $839.99 for the S9+, although those prices can be lowered with volume discounts and/or trade-ins of existing devices.
AT&T has stated that its dedicated public-safety LTE core—enabling the full suite of first-responder-specific capabilities—will be operational by the end of March.
February 21, 2018
With FirstNet on track to complete its core network on schedule this quarter, the dedicated, nationwide first responder platform is seeing a markedly positive response from local agencies that, like the states and territories that unanimously opted in, are making their own affirmative choices.
Doug Clark, AT&T assistant vice president for FirstNet state outreach and consultation, declined to cite specific numbers but characterized participation as “enthusiastic,” with “lots” of agencies joining and “significant interest.”
One such agency is the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, a far-flung jurisdiction in eastern central Texas that’s more than half the size of Rhode Island. It had prior, positive experience with the network, having participated in a FirstNet test node at Texas A&M University, which boosted its technology deployments — then became the first agency in the state to join FirstNet. The state joined FirstNet in September.
AT&T announces Dallas, Atlanta, Waco as three of first cities to receive 5G service
February 21, 2018
Parts of Dallas, Atlanta and Waco will be among the dozen cities this year where AT&T will deploy standards-based, mobile 5G services that ultimately will provide users with low-latency connectivity and data rates of multiple gigabits per seconds, the carrier announced today.
In addition to Dallas, Atlanta and Waco, AT&T announced that it plans to identify nine other U.S. cities where the carrier will roll out mobile 5G this year, according to a company press release.
“After significantly contributing to the first phase of 5G standards, conducting multi-city trials, and literally transforming our network for the future, we’re planning to be the first carrier to deliver standards-based mobile 5G – and do it much sooner than most people thought possible,” Igal Elbaz, AT&T’s senior vice president of wireless network architecture and design, said in a prepared statement. “Our mobile 5G firsts will put our customers in the middle of it all.”
AT&T’s 5G announcement comes less than two weeks after the carrier closed a $207 million deal with FiberTower that provided the telecom giant with substantial millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum rights. Although the FCC ruled that AT&T could not obtain FiberTower’s 24 GHz spectrum rights in the acquisition, the deal has provided AT&T with “average holdings of more than 375 MHz in the top 100 markets” in the 39 GHz spectrum band, according to a company press release issued to announce the close of the FiberTower acquisition.
Rural deployment will not be an afterthought to urban deployment during the buildout of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), AT&T, FirstNet and state officials said during a webinar hosted by the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA).
“Rural is something that won’t be waiting until last,” said Carrie Johnson, director of public-safety advocacy and tribal affairs specialist for AT&T’s FirstNet program. “It is a key priority during every stage of the buildout and beyond those first five years as well.”
For each stage of the five-year buildout, there is a requirement for the rural coverage available, which will ensure that AT&T doesn’t wait until the fifth year to begin deploying rural coverage, said David Soloos, the single point of contact (SPOC) for Oregon. “Rural will be coming online as it comes online with urban first responders.” The FirstNet request for proposals (RFP) required that 20 percent of rural coverage be built in the first year, 60 percent in the second, 80 percent in the third, 95 in the fourth and 100 percent by the fifth year.
As services for the national public safety wireless broadband network start be deployed, FirstNet contractor AT&T and others are pushing back against claims about alternative services offered by Verizon.
AT&T rival Verizon said it is working on an interconnection with the nationwide network that FirstNet awarded AT&T to build last spring. Verizon's claims are not true, according to AT&T.
"An interconnection agreement between FirstNet, AT&T and Verizon is currently not underway," an AT&T spokesman said in an email. "FirstNet is the country's only communications platform designed for all of public safety. And, while others may try to replicate what FirstNet will offer, FirstNet is the only network with spectrum dedicated in times of emergency and prepared to deliver on Congress's vision for public safety."
Since the summer, competition between FirstNet and Verizon's network plans has been heating up.
This past August, Verizon vowed to create a "core network" pulled from its national commercial 4G LTE network for first responders to use. The firm said its network covers 2.4 million square miles of the U.S. It chose not bid on the FirstNet contract because it said it didn't need the 20MHz of band 14 spectrum that came with it.
After FirstNet announced in recent weeks that all 50 states and five U.S. territories have opted into the program, Verizon reminded the states that just because they opted in didn't mean they had to commit to the plan.
Michael Maiorana, senior vice president for public sector at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, said public safety users didn't have to migrate to AT&T's network and urged them to explore all options.
Verizon's approach has rankled AT&T and a few others.
In a Jan. 9 meeting of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Counsel teleconference, Kevin McGinnis, a representative of National Association of State Emergency Medical Services Officials said Verizon's claims it has a unique public/private partnership with FirstNet and the ability to provide oversight were "unfounded."
McGinnis also questioned Verizon's efforts to build a network comparable to FirstNet.
"Verizon has said it could build a separate core for public safety, suggesting that it could work with the [FirstNet] core. Verizon promised priority and preemption, but it did not avail itself of the opportunity to participate in the bidding … from the beginning," McGinnis said.
"The consensus of [FirstNet's Public Safety Advisory Committee] was that these claims are not provable. Public safety needs to hold these companies accountable for their claims," FirstNet's Tom Sorley, who chairs the PSAC, said during the Jan. 9 teleconference. "We need to make sure we're holding folks accountable for what they say."
"We haven't had any recent meetings regarding interoperability with AT&T," Verizon spokesman John O'Malley said in a Jan. 23 email, "but we're certainly open to discussions that would lead to the best possible nationwide network for first responders -- that should be everyone's shared goal."
FirstNet nationwide contractor AT&T today launched a new visual brand that will be associated with FirstNet services and products, according to AT&T and FirstNet officials. FirstNet will continue to use its existing logo to designate organizational activities, as opposed to products and services that subscribers can buy.
Although launched by AT&T, the new brand was developed with input from FirstNet officials, according to a FirstNet spokesperson. This black-and-white visual brand is being used “to identify products and services that are specifically approved for use on FirstNet,” according to an AT&T spokesperson.
“Whenever first responders see it, they can be confident that they are getting something just for them,” Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president for FirstNet, stated in his blog about the subject. “It’s built in collaboration with them, backed by the expertise of AT&T and approved with the advocacy of the First Responder Network Authority.”
In the blog, Sambar stated that this new black-and-white visual brand features three key elements:
•“Symbol – 3 horizontal lines represent the distinct but interconnected disciplines of public safety. They’re united in communications, symbolized by a notch in the lower right corner. This forms a speech bubble that signifies seamless communication and harmonious interoperation for first responders nationwide.
•“Wordmark – FIRSTNET. We’ve bolded “first” to show that this network is, first and foremost, a solution for first responders. The technology will never be more important than the first responders it benefits. This platform belongs to them. They fought for it, and they will continue to guide its development. Plus, they’ll always be first in line for service.
“Attribution – “Built with AT&T.” We chose each word carefully to reflect the brand’s commitment to public safety. ◦Built: This is a new effort, new solution and new network that is purpose-built for first responders. It’s the only communications platform dedicated to public safety. And there’s nothing else like it in the market.
With: Collaboration with first responders will always be our foundation.
AT&T: This is a solution built with the expertise of the nation’s largest and most reliable network provider.* So, first responders can rely on it for their technology and communications needs.”
As of Friday, governors in all 50 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia made “opt-in” decisions to accept the FirstNet nationwide deployment plan—often with enhancements—offered by AT&T. However, these “opt-in” decisions do not obligate public-safety entities in those states to subscribe to FirstNet services; FirstNet and AT&T must make their offer compelling enough to attract public-safety adoption in the competitive market.
Northern Mariana Islands ‘opt-in’ decision gives FirstNet clean sweep of states and territories
January 19, 2018
Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph DeLeon Guerrero Torres today announced that he has accepted the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T, meaning all 56 states and territories in the U.S. have made an “opt-in” decision.
“Today, Gov. Torres made history,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “With his decision to join FirstNet, we are proud to have every U.S. state and territory on the nationwide public safety broadband network.
“Gov. Torres’s decision will help enhance emergency communications across the territory’s rural and remote areas by bringing coverage and capacity to the islands. We look forward to continuing to work with public safety in the Northern Mariana Islands to help ensure that emergency first responders will have access to the most modern and innovative tools available today.”
Standards for MCPTT, Mission-Critical Video and Data Completed
January 18, 2018
The remaining stage three work for Long Term Evolution (LTE) Release 14 on MCPTT, mission-critical video (MCVideo) and mission-critical data (MCData) was completed, and each specification set was considered 100 percent complete during the Core Network and Terminals (CT) Plenary, said Dean Prochaska, director of standards for the U.S. First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).
Work on Release 15, including interworking to legacy mobile radio technology and continued additions to MCPTT, MCVideo and MCData, is underway. The CT plenary is also working on 5G specifications.
“CT has challenging schedules and resource constraints to complete 5G, so we plan to work closely with our standards counterparts to ensure progress continues in parallel on public-safety work,” Prochaska said in a blog.
The Service and System Aspects (SA) Plenary completed stage two of 5G and officially approved several public-safety items. At the last plenary meeting, much of the discussion focused on renaming the current mission-critical specifications to remove the limiting “over LTE” wording, so existing specifications can be reused for 5G and beyond.
Renaming stage one mission-critical specifications was completed and approved at the December meeting. Other 3GPP committees are evaluating their mission-critical specifications to generalize their titles, make technical changes where required and modify other language as needed within the specifications themselves
National Public Safety Telecommunications Council
January 10, 2018
Public safety Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems provide mission critical communications for first responders and are considered essential to manage day-to-day agency operations and response to emergency incidents.
The Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) will be the first fully interoperable network supporting data, voice, and video for all first responders in the U.S. One of the proposed new services is Mission Critical Push to Talk (MCPTT), which is being designed to provide some LMR-like services which may eventually allow first responders to carry a single device to access voice, video, and data. However, comparability with existing LMR systems for voice is yet to be determined, (e.g., for coverage and direct unit to unit communications).
This changing technology landscape may directly impact mission critical voice communications and the way public safety agencies interoperate with each other and with other organizations and entities.
This report, Public Safety Land Mobile Radio (LMR) Interoperability with LTE Mission Critical Push to Talk, is designed to articulate the issues and requirements regarding integration and interoperability between LMR systems and LTE MCPTT services. This report does not advance a notion that all public safety agencies will migrate their LMR users to the NPSBN. However, it is clear that public safety agencies will be using a mix of LMR and LTE networks in both the short and long term and will need to have effective interoperability solutions.
NPSTC authorized the creation of an LMR-LTE Integration and Interoperability Working Group in 2016 to study how first responders would communicate with the introduction of MCPTT. More than 200 participants representing public safety, industry, and academia participated in the Working Group and in the development of this report. Working Group members created use cases to examine different public safety operational scenarios involving the use of LMR and LTE PTT services. These use cases led to the creation of public safety technical requirements and a series of recommendations and conclusions.
AT&T discusses the IoT implications of FirstNet
January 9, 2018
Last year the First Responders Network Authority awarded a $6.5 billion contract to AT&T to build out a nationwide LTE network for public safety use. AT&T, which is allowed to use the 20 megahertz of 700 MHz spectrum for commercial services as well, is further investing $40 billion into the project. By the end of last month, all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories agreed to let AT&T build out FirstNet coverage — including New Hampshire, which made a last-minute reversal of an opt-out.
FirstNet has a lot of implications–for AT&T’s capital expenditure plans, for its spectrum strategy, for the first responders that will depend on the network for critical communications, and also for the booming internet of things space. In a recent blog post, Mike Zeto, general manager of AT&T Smart Cities, highlighted the role the internet of things will play, along with FirstNet, in improving how public safety officials do their work.
Zeto called out four use cases:
◾Fleet management solutions that help dispatchers improve response efficiency and come with enhanced push-to-talk communications and the ability to “determine the on-board capabilities” of vehicles.
◾Connected infrastructure like lighting sites equipped with traffic and road condition sensors that can improve routing for first responders.
◾Drone applications where, for example, a drone could assess an accident site while paramedics are en route, or firefighters managing a wildfire.
◾And connected gear like wearable cameras that enable “see-what-I-see-capabilities to support search and rescue,” as well as biometric sensors that can monitor individual safety.
“As these capabilities are brought onto the FirstNet platform,” Zeto wrote, “first responders can be confident they’ll have highly secure, reliable access to near real-time data and video feeds. This information can support response, help with situational awareness and boost collaboration. Plus, all public safety traffic on the FirstNet platform will be routed through a dedicated core with end-to-end encryption to help meet first responders’ sensitive communications needs. We’ve only just scratched the surface of possibilities.”
FirstNet Outlines 2018 Milestones
January 04, 2018
"America's first responders now have a nationwide interoperable network they can rely on 24/7/365 – like their mission," said First Responder Network Authority CEO Mike Poth. "I applaud these governors for their decision and congratulate public safety for its advocacy and partnership throughout the process."
All 50 states, two U.S. territories, and Washington, D.C., have now joined FirstNet, the wireless broadband network to be dedicated to public safety, and officials involved in it said Dec. 29 it has big plans for 2018. The statutory 90-day decision period for state governors to opt in or out of the FirstNet proposed Radio Access Network (RAN) buildout plan ended Dec. 28, and every state accepted the FirstNet deployment plan. Three U.S. territories have until March 12, 2018, to make their decision: American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Congress passed legislation to establish the network in 2012. Since then, the First Responder Network Authority worked closely with public safety to develop customized plans for building the network in each state and territory.
"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 First Responder Network Authority CEO Mike Poth. "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."
The 2018 activities will include:
The First Responder Network Authority will issue work orders to deploy the RANs in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the two opt-in territories in early 2018, which will give AT&T the green light to expand FirstNet's footprint and deploy Band 14 capacity and coverage throughout the country.
FirstNet will unlock a new technology marketplace for public safety, and its App store will be filling up with FirstNet-approved mobile apps that are optimized for public safety use over the first responder network.
On schedule to be operational in March, the FirstNet public safety core will provide full encryption of public safety data over FirstNet and provide end-to-end cyber security. FirstNet subscribers will have access to a dedicated Security Operations Center offering 24/7/365 support.
"While getting to this point is a major achievement for public safety, our job is not finished," Poth said. "We still have much work to do to realize the full potential of FirstNet for public safety everywhere, including rural America, and we will move full speed ahead to make it happen."
“Communication is critical when a typhoon or other disaster strikes our island,” Calvo said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet is another step toward improving our connectivity amongst first responders, which enhances their safety, as well as their ability to safeguard and respond to emergencies in our island community.”
Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio echoed this sentiment. “With our participation in this nationwide program, we’ll take a step to addressing our communications needs for first responders,” Tenorio said in a prepared statement. “Our geography here on Guam expands well beyond the popular hiking grounds in the hills and valleys of the south—it continues into miles of ocean surrounding our island.”
Charles Esteves, Guam’s administrator for the Office of Civil Defense, said he believes that FirstNet will be very helpful to first responders in the island territory.
All in for FirstNet
January 2, 2018
Although 53 states and U.S. territories have officially opted into the FirstNet wireless communications network, some are cautious about vendor AT&T and the 25-year deployment plan.
AT&T, the network provider chosen by FirstNet last March to build its nationwide public-safety broadband wireless network, said on Dec. 28 that 50 states, two territories and the District of Columbia officially opted in to the plan.
The network will be funded with $6.5 billion of government money and a planned $43 million expenditure by AT&T. The telecom giant gets access to highly desirable spectrum reserved for the system, which it can use on its commercial service when not in demand by priority users.
AT&T and FirstNet had set Dec. 28 as the deadline for states to either opt in to the federally backed network plans drawn up and distributed by FirstNet or commit to Radio Access Network (RAN) plans from other network providers.
"We are grateful to have every state say 'yes' to the FirstNet solution," said Michael Poth, FirstNet CEO. "The scale of participation by the states and territories is significant for many reasons," he said.
American Samoa, Guam and Northern Marianas Islands have until March to decide on their plans, according to FirstNet.
A few big states, such as California, Florida and New York waited until the final day to decide to go with FirstNet, while a notable state hold-out ultimately abandoned its plan to use an alternative provider's RAN.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said on Dec. 7 his state would opt out of the FirstNet plan in favor of a RAN built by Rivada Mercury, a consortium of companies assembled by Rivada Networks that includes Harris Corp, Intel, Fujitsu, Ericsson and Nokia.
Only days later, however, the governor reversed his decision. In a Dec. 28 statement, Sununu indicated he didn't want to be the only opt-out state.
"While Rivada's plan remains the better option for New Hampshire, I have determined that the additional risk associated with being the only state to opt-out creates too high a barrier for New Hampshire to continue down the opt-out path alone," Sununu said. The state had "been successful in working with First Net to remove the unreasonable fees and penalties" in the run-up to the deadline, he added.
“While California remains concerned that the proposed plan does not meet all our state’s needs, California is opting into the plan with the expectation that our concerns will be addressed throughout our partnership,” Brown stated in his letter notifying FirstNet of the “opt-in” decision.
“California looks forward to working with FirstNet to address the gaps in the proposed plan throughout the 25-year deployment and implementation period.”
Under the law that established FirstNet in 2012, governors in all 56 states and territories have the choice of making an “opt-in” decision—accepting the FirstNet deployment plan and allowing AT&T to build the LTE radio access network (RAN) within the state’s borders at no cost to the state—or pursuing the “opt-out” alternative, which would require the state to be responsible for building and maintaining the RAN for the next 25 years.
California was the fifth state to announce its “opt-in” decision today, which was the deadline for governors in all states to make their FirstNet “opt-in/opt-out” decisions. Three Pacific territories—Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands—did not receive their state plans until this month and have a March 18 deadline for their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions.
With Brown’s decision, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and two territories—Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—have made “opt-in” decisions. As a result, AT&T will build and maintain the FirstNet LTE network and gain access to the 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum licensed to FirstNet in all of these states and territories, which includes the entire continental United States.
“Today's decision by Gov. Brown puts reliable communications and cutting-edge technology in the hands of California's first responders,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet in California will help deliver innovation and interoperability across the Golden State's diverse landscape—including its rural, urban and coastal areas. FirstNet looks forward to our continued partnership with the state's public-safety community.”