The FirstNet Authority, in collaboration with its network partner AT&T, has announced an investment initiative aimed at revolutionizing public safety communications.
With a $8 billion allocation over the next decade, this initiative seeks to evolve and expand FirstNet, the dedicated network for America’s first responders.
The investment plan, spearheaded by the FirstNet Authority, will inject $6.3 billion into the network contract with AT&T, with an additional $2 billion earmarked for ongoing coverage enhancements, subject to ongoing discussions. These strategic investments are designed to ensure that FirstNet remains at the forefront of innovative, life-saving technologies, empowering public safety agencies across the nation.
FirstNet has already achieved significant coverage, surpassing any other network nationwide. With over 5.5 million connections and 27,500 public safety agencies and organizations onboard, FirstNet ensures reliable communication for first responders.
This landmark announcement marks the initiation of the next phase of FirstNet’s development, featuring a 10-year investment plan that includes:
Priority and Preemption: Public safety on FirstNet will benefit from always-on priority and preemption across all AT&T 5G commercial spectrum bands, effective March.
Expansion of Cell Sites: Thousands of new, purpose-built FirstNet cell sites will be erected nationwide, with plans for 1,000 new sites within the next two years. Additional investments over the decade will focus on enhancing Band 14 coverage to support public safety response operations.
Standalone 5G Core: The establishment of a standalone 5G core will augment current 5G functionality on FirstNet with specific public safety features and facilitate the transition of public safety’s Band 14 spectrum from LTE to 5G.
Mission-Critical Services: Comprehensive upgrades will be made to enhance voice, video, data, and location services, complementing public safety’s existing radio systems with reliable wireless connectivity.
Deployable Network Assets: Public safety’s dedicated fleet of deployable network assets will be upgraded with 5G connectivity to enhance operational safety, security, and resilience.
Future Readiness: The network will be primed for future technological advancements beyond 5G, ensuring that public safety’s evolving needs are continually addressed.
This strategic investment initiative underscores the pivotal role of FirstNet as a catalyst for technology and innovation in public safety. The network has fostered a robust ecosystem of mission-centric apps, solutions, and dedicated connectivity tailored for public safety operations.
With the initial buildout of FirstNet complete, this initiative will focus on expanding access to public safety’s Band 14 spectrum in the near term, with recurrent coverage enhancements planned. The FirstNet Authority will collaborate closely with public safety stakeholders across states, territories, and tribal lands to identify areas requiring broader coverage.
The transition to 5G network will enable FirstNet to keep pace with evolving technology and standards, ensuring faster speeds, increased capacity, and enhanced service quality for users. Throughout this transition, the existing FirstNet 4G LTE network will remain fully operational, maintaining the high level of service expected by first responders.
The introduction of a unified, standalone 5G core is particularly significant, allowing FirstNet to embrace future technological advancements specific to public safety while maintaining priority and preemption capabilities critical for mission-critical communications.