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FirstNet Partners with AT&T to Build $46.5 Billion Wireless Broadband Network for America's First Responders

Date: 2017-03-31
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Private partnership will modernize emergency communications infrastructure, saving lives, protecting communities, and creating jobs 

                    

On Thursday, March 30th, 2017 the Department of Commerce and First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) announced the selection of AT&T to build the first nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to America’s first responders.  This record-breaking public-private partnership is a significant investment in the communications infrastructure that public safety desperately needs for day-to-day operations, disaster response and recovery, and securing of large events. It will also make 20 MHz of prime broadband spectrum available for private-sector development.

“Today is a landmark day for public safety across the Nation and shows the incredible progress we can make through public-private partnerships,” said U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “FirstNet is a critical infrastructure project that will give our first responders the communications tools they need to keep America safe and secure.  This public-private partnership will also spur innovation and create over ten thousand new jobs in this cutting-edge sector.”

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The broad terms of this 25-year agreement between FirstNet and AT&T are:

  • FirstNet will provide 20 MHz of high-value, telecommunications spectrum and success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the Network buildout – FirstNet’s funding was raised from previous FCC spectrum auctions;
  • AT&T will spend about $40 billion over the life of the contract to build, deploy, operate and maintain the network, with a focus on ensuring robust coverage for public safety;
  • Additionally, AT&T will connect FirstNet users to the company’s telecommunications network assets, valued at more than $180 billion.

The ability to communicate seamlessly across jurisdictions is critical for law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) when securing large events or responding to emergencies and disasters.  In those instances, networks can become overloaded and inaccessible, limiting responders’ use of vital communication technologies, such as smartphones and applications dedicated to public safety services.  

That will change with a high-speed network built specifically for the millions of public safety users in all 50 states, 5 U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, including those serving rural communities and tribal lands.  The Network will modernize first responders’ communications and deliver specialized features that are not available to them on wireless networks today.

“This public-private partnership is a major step forward for the public safety community as we begin building the broadband network they fought for and deserve,” said FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson.  “FirstNet and AT&T will deliver high-speed connectivity to help millions of first responders operate faster, safer, and more effectively when lives are on the line.”

This innovative public-private partnership will create more than 10,000 new jobs and ensure public safety has a voice in the growth and evolution of the Network.  In addition, FirstNet and AT&T will maximize the resources they are bringing to the partnership to create a financially self-sustaining network. 

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Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO, said, “We are honored to work with FirstNet to build a network for America’s police, firefighters and EMS that is second to none.  This is an unprecedented public-private investment in infrastructure that makes America a leader and public safety a national priority.”

“This unique partnership brings together FirstNet as the voice of public safety and a global technology team with a proven track record and commitment to public safety,” said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth. “Together, FirstNet and AT&T will move with precision and urgency to deliver this much-needed infrastructure to those who need it the most: our first responders.”

FirstNet addresses a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission regarding communications used by police, fire, and emergency medical personnel.  The public safety community advocated for and endorsed passage of legislation for the wireless broadband network. 

NENA: The 9-1-1 Association congratulated FirstNet and AT&T on this historic partnership. “Today marks an important milestone in FirstNet’s mission to provide nationwide, wireless, IP-broadband networks for public safety field responder communications,” their statement read. “All public safety entities should have access to the latest technologies that can improve communications and better serve our communities. NENA looks forward to the deployment of Next Generation 9-1-1, which will create a fully-interoperable, technology-forward emergency communications chain that links the public, 9-1-1 centers, and responders in the field.”

The The National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA) also distribuited a statement of congratulations to FirstNet and AT&T on their partnership. “Today is an historic day for public safety,” said Evelyn Bailey, the organization’s executive director. “While NASNA’s primary focus is on 9-1-1, it is our belief that neither NG9-1-1 nor FirstNet can achieve its full potential without the other,” she continued. “The NPSBN, in combination with Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1), will give first responders the communications capabilities and information they need to keep us safe in everyday emergencies as well as large-scale disasters.”

Watch a video on youtube with FirstNet CEO Mike Poth and President TJ Kennedy on the FirstNet Partnership with AT&T

About the FirstNet
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Chartered in 2012, its mission is to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the nationwide, broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities. Learn more at FirstNet.gov and follow FirstNet (@FirstNetGov) on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

- Corporate News/9-1-1magazine.com (via FirstNET, NENA, NASNA, 3/30/17)

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