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The FirstNet Authority and its network partner, AT&T are announcing a major investment in the future of public safety communications. The FirstNet Authority’s 10-year, $8 billion investment initiative will evolve and expand FirstNet® — America’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. These strategic investments will expand and evolve FirstNet so public safety stays at the forefront of innovative, lifesaving technologies.

“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, 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.”

As public safety’s partner, 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 organizations on FirstNet, first responders can reliably communicate with one another during everyday operations, big events, emergencies in the field and more.

“Our partnership with the federal government has given us the distinct privilege of delivering America's public safety network,” said Jim BugelPresident, FirstNet Program at AT&T. “FirstNet is critical infrastructure that is reliably connecting those who tirelessly protect and serve. 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 prioritizing first responders and the communities they serve.”

Next Phase of FirstNet

This landmark announcement launches the next phase of FirstNet with a 10-year investment initiative that will:

  • Provide first responders on FirstNet with always-on priority and preemption across all AT&T 5G commercial spectrum bands, starting in March.
  • Build thousands of new, purpose-built FirstNet cell sites across the country – including 1,000 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. These coverage investments will reflect public safety factors and network considerations, all in support of public safety response operations.
  • Create 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.
  • Expand mission-critical services — voice, video, data, and location — to complement public safety’s localized, voice-only radio systems with reliable, wireless connectivity.
  • Upgrade public safety’s dedicated fleet of deployable network assets with 5G connectivity to improve operational safety, security, and resiliency.
  • Ready the network to evolve beyond 5G, while remaining focused on public safety’s unique needs and emerging requirements when implementing future technological advancements.

Why Public Safety Needs a Unified, Standalone 5G Core

By delivering a standalone 5G core, FirstNet will be able to evolve with public safety-specific technological advancements in the coming years that simply aren’t possible with 4G, while maintaining its always-on priority and preemption that is critical for mission-critical communications.

The ability of 5G to handle large amounts of data and connect more devices at once is essential to enabling the future of emergency response. 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 the foundation for the future of first responder-centric technologies.

Plus, by integrating 5G on FirstNet with 9-1-1, public safety will be able to leverage the full potential of this technology, allowing for a more informed and rapid response to emergencies.