FirstNet, the first responder network being built in a public/private partnership between AT&T and the FirstResponder Authority, is approaching its first birthday with network construction underway. A FirstNet progress report came in the form of a blog post and press release.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia and five territories have opted into the initiative. Yesterday, FirstNet and AT&T said that they continue to build out state radio access networks and the core network that will connect the statewide networks.

The networks will use dedicated spectrum is known as Band 14. “This is an exciting time for FirstNet and public safety, as we build out the statewide RANs and connect them to the dedicated FirstNet core network,” said First Responder Network Authority CTO Jeff Bratcher in a press release. “This will be the first-ever and only dedicated core infrastructure built specifically for public safety in the country. No wireless provider has done this until now.”

FirstNet Progress
FirstNet, which is a response to the September 11 attacks and other crises, is envisioned as a nationwide first responders’ network that will be impervious to mobile usage spikes that occur in emergencies. It will enable different types of first responders (such as firefighters and police) and those from different jurisdictions to communicate easily and will include useful apps.

The FirstNet core will have these characteristics:

  • End-to-end encryption. The FirstNet core comes with FIPS 140-2 compliant VPN solutions, radio, transport and network core encryption, and advanced physical and logical security protocols to keep all traffic on the network protected.
  • Round the clock security monitoring. The FirstNet core will be monitored at all times by a dedicated Security Operations Center with a dedicated team. Their sole focus will be to monitor the security of the network.
  • Superior reliability and availability. The FirstNet core will help enable the network’s 99.99% end-to-end service availability objective. There will be multiple geographically distributed locations nationwide that house core network elements to enable redundancy and performance.
  • Local control. The FirstNet core will unlock different levels of priority paired with a local control interface. This means incident commanders and eligible first responders can boost priority levels to best support specific situational responses.
  • Mission critical functions. The FirstNet core will deliver a range of next-generation public safety capabilities that are currently being developed based upon open standards specific for public safety. Going forward, these will include services such as Mission-Critical Push-to-Talk, enhanced location-based services and more.

AT&T said FirstNet will cover at least 95% of the U.S. population. During the next five years, Band 14 equipment will be added to tens of thousands of new and existing sites. AT&T said it will add the equipment to about one-third of its cell sites this year. AT&T also is working with device makers to include Band 14. So far, devices with it include the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ and the Sonim XP8 and XP5s, which are specialty devices.

A key is the ability to immediately provide access to first responders. “FirstNet is unprecedented. We’re not aware of any other wireless communications platform that has enabled priority and preemption capabilities nationally to first responders without downtime to turn them on,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president of AT&T-FirstNet in a press release. “When lives are on the line, you don’t have time to wait for access.”