AT&T said today that it will work with Commnet Broadband, NTUA and NTUA Wireless to expand the FirstNet first responder network to serve the Navajo Nation. As part of the same project, AT&T also will deploy commercial LTE service in other spectrum bands across more than 100 cell sites.
AT&T won the contract to build and operate the FirstNet network using dedicated spectrum several years ago and the network is now available throughout a large part of the U.S. Although first responders have priority and preemption capability on the network, AT&T’s commercial customers can use the network when and where it is not in use by first responders.
NTUA, NTUA Wireless and Commnet have common ownership, providing broadband and wireless connectivity to remote rural areas, including tribal areas.
The Navajo Nation encompasses 27,000 square miles, according to a press release, which also notes that most of the 100+ towers are operational now, with the final two expected to be operational by the end of the year.
FirstNet Rural Partners
AT&T’s agreement with the FirstNet First Responder Authority calls for the carrier to partner with rural providers to support the network. AT&T has not revealed much about those partnerships, including whether the rural providers can use the FirstNet network when capacity is available.
As of 2019, there were 20 FirstNet rural partners, according to Ed Parkinson, who was then acting CEO of the FirstNet Authority.
The FirstNet network in the Navajo Nation “is increasing the telecommunications capabilities that our frontline warriors need to help respond to emergency situations,” said Jonathan Nez, Navajo Nation president, in today’s press release.
He added that “we are seeing the real change that our communities will benefit from in terms of greater resources for first responders. This is Nation building and we look forward to constructing more infrastructure to improve the quality of life for our Navajo people.”