FirstNet: Nationwide secure broadband network + communication tools for first responders

We’ve been writing about the progress of FirstNet in our enews since Mar 2014 (and Oct 2014 and Mar 2015). And now that AT&T is the official provider of services for FirstNet, the dedicated communications platform created with first responders for first responders is helping to enable simpler, safer, faster and more collaborative communications.

FirstNet will give the public safety community the 21st-century communication tools it needs to help save lives and keep communities and first responders safe.

As of late-December 2017, all 50 states, 5 U.S. territories and the District of Columbia officially Opted-In to FirstNet, so now FirstNet and AT&T have a clear line of sight to deliver a nationwide platform and communications tools being built for public safety officials.

The foundation of the FirstNet service is a highly reliable highly secure broadband network dedicated to public safety. This is the first time public safety communications will be based on global standards like Global System for Mobile Communications, realize the benefits of economies of scale, and see rapid evolution of advanced communication capabilities, on a network designed for public safety users.

Why is the FirstNet network a necessary and relevant undertaking?

Whether they’re responding to a local emergency or supporting a disaster in another city or state, public safety deserves a network that will be there for them whenever and wherever they need it. This unifying network will allow first responders and other public safety personnel to communicate across different agencies and jurisdictions throughout the country. Given current difficulties in doing this, the FirstNet network will allow public safety entities to better coordinate when jointly responding to human-caused and natural disasters.

Who can subscribe to FirstNet?

Subscribers can include primary user and extended primary users:

  • Primary users are public safety personnel whose primary mission and job is to provide services to the public in the areas of law enforcement, fire suppression and prevention, or emergency medical services.
  • Extended primary users are other entities that provide public safety services, and include individuals, agencies, organizations, non-profit or for-profit companies who are not primary users, but who may be called upon to support public safety personnel with the mitigation, remediation, overhaul, clean-up, restoration, or other such services that are required during the time of incident or post-incident. Extended primary users may be called on a temporary or on-going basis.

How does FirstNet compare to what’s currently available to public safety?


  • Networks get congested in disasters and emergencies, making it difficult for first responders and other public safety personnel to communicate, coordinate and do their jobs.
  • The public safety community uses more than 10,000 radio networks – which creates difficulty when trying to communicate across agencies or jurisdictions.

With the FirstNet network:

  • First responders and other public safety personnel will access one highly secure, nationwide, interoperable communications network that will support voice, data, text and video communications.
  • Public safety will have dedicated access to this network in times of crisis– their communications needs will come before non-public safety users.
  • FirstNet will also deliver specialized features to further the public safety mission, including priority, preemption and more network capacity; a resilient, hardened connection; and an applications ecosystem with innovative applications and services.
  • Devices connected to the network – such as wearables, drones and vehicles – will relay near real-time information to improve situational awareness and, ultimately, help save lives both of public safety responders on the front lines and the communities they protect. Mike Zeto, general manager of AT&T Smart Cities, sees a unique opportunity to bridge public safety’s capabilities with the Internet of Things (IoT) ~ read more on

What types of devices will work on FirstNet?

Public safety users have access to an expansive catalog of LTE devices, ranging from purpose-built rugged units to the world’s most popular smart devices and tablets, complemented with a wide range of accessories. FirstNet enables public safety customers to get the priority, coverage, and interoperability they need without sacrificing choice in the devices they require to get the job done. Additionally, FirstNet will establish Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) capabilities to support volunteers and other personnel who use their personal devices for their public safety work if they meet the applicable requirements.

FirstNet rate plans support a wide variety of smartphones, tablets, laptops, modems, and network-ready devices using Android®, Apple® iOS, BlackBerry®, and Windows® Phones.

As of 22-Jan-2018 Mike Poth, First Responder Network Authority CEO announced AT&T launched a brand expressly designed for FirstNet products and services. Having a specialized brand and logo will help public safety identify the FirstNet solution and lifesaving technologies the network offers first responders across our nation.

How will this network withstand natural disasters, such as flooding or hurricanes?

The first line of defense against network impact from natural disasters is a hardened, strengthened network. AT&T builds network infrastructure to meet or exceed national standards and local wind and earthquake load requirements. They have continued to strengthen the network in hurricane-prone areas by:

  • Installing back-up and permanent generators at critical cell sites and switching facilities
  • Locating critical equipment in less vulnerable areas
  • Locating electronics critical to network operations above expected flood levels
  • Protecting physical facilities against flooding

Additionally, AT&T will provide power to the network in case commercial power is lost by adding more generators for use immediately after a storm hits. They will also place switches and generators critical to network operations in upper floors of buildings in case of flooding. AT&T has already elevated key distribution facilities in many low-lying areas and upgraded electronics in many locations, replacing copper wiring with fiber optic cable.

Learn about FirstNet network and services, rate plans, solutions, devices and apps, events and more at

And visit to learn about FirstNet’s programs and activities, including its consultation and outreach with public safety, the State Plans process, and how the Board plans to ensure the FirstNet network meets the needs of public safety – every day and in every emergency.

You can also find updates and an RSS feed in the U.S. First Responders Association’s FirstNet group


Source: Fedhealth 1Q2018 enews


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