Networking

AT&T looks to improve US public safety with network dedicated to first responders

All 50 states, plus Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, opted into the plan.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • AT&T is launching FirstNet, a dedicated network for first responders in all 50 states and select territories.
  • The network builds on existing LTE infrastructure, and AT&T will add 20 MHz of Band 14 telecommunications spectrum to service new and existing towers throughout 2018.

With unanimous support from 53 US states and territories, AT&T will launch a dedicated broadband fast lane for first responders, the company announced Friday.

Dubbed FirstNet, the network builds on AT&T's LTE infrastructure to ensure all first responders, including those serving rural areas, are well-connected. Increased connectivity in typically tough to reach areas may mean safer communities with better access to public services.

SEE: Internet of Things policy (Tech Pro Research)

"A good portion of firefighters are volunteers located in small or rural communities," Chris Sambar, senior vice president of AT&T FirstNet, said in the press release. "The network must deliver for them and all who keep us safe a solution that's more available and reliable than their existing networks."

Labeled the first network dedicated to public safety, it provides immediate access to mission-critical capabilities, and aims to increase connectivity across jurisdictions when responsibilities may overlap to improve first responder safety and effectiveness, the release said.

The beginning stages of the network are available now, as they use AT&T's existing infrastructure. In 2018, the telecom provider will bring 20 MHz of Band 14 telecommunications spectrum to "tens of thousands of new and existing towers," according to the release.

Additionally, AT&T said it will work with governments to identify high-need areas, including spots prone to natural disasters. The company will also look into additional upgrades to boost the network over the next five years, including 5G.

FirstNet will serve all 50 states, plus Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, according to our sister site ZDNet. American Samoa, Guam, and Northern Marianas Islands have until March 12, 2018 to decide whether they want to opt in or not.

The cost of the project, around $40 billion, falls on AT&T, and will be paid over the course of the contract, according to the release. The First Responder Network Authority (FRNA) will pay $6.5 billion in success-based payments to AT&T each year for the next five years. FRNA's payments come from FCC spectrum auctions, and not taxpayer dollars, the press release noted.

The network's roll out comes after many tech companies have been using their resources and products to advance public safety. AT&T and Alphabet helped provide cell service to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, while others helped Houston, TX residents save their smartphones after Hurricane Harvey. Meanwhile, Hc1 is using artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to spot trends in the opioid epidemic in hopes of combating drug addiction.

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Image: iStockphoto/timalot

About Olivia Krauth

Olivia Krauth is an Education Reporter at Insider Louisville.

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