The FirstNet dedicated mobile broadband public safety network will be upgraded to 5G, based on a vote by the First Responder Network Authority Board today. It would seem to be a smart decision, as the network, whose construction began in 2017, uses LTE technology that could begin to look out of date as carriers move ahead with 5G deployments on their commercial networks.

The First Responder Network Authority, the government organization responsible for the network, said today that the board has authorized $200 million to go toward “initial upgrades to set FirstNet on the path to 5G” and “to expand the dedicated fleet of deployable assets.”

FirstNet 5G
As today’s press release explains, the FirstNet 5G network upgrade will be a multi-phase effort, beginning with upgrades to the FirstNet network core.

“The physically separate, highly available, redundant and secure network core is foundational to FirstNet,” the First Responder Public Network Authority said. “It acts as the nervous system of the network, separates all public safety traffic from non-public safety user traffic and enables differentiated services for network users.”

According to the release, 5G in the future “is expected to drive major increases in the quantity and types of connected devices for FirstNet users, including vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles and sensors.”

As Telecompetitor has previously reported, the dedicated public safety core network is already a key enabler of network capabilities such as ability of authorized users to assign public safety personnel to any of three separate priority levels.

FirstNet network map
FirstNet Network Map (Source: FirstNet website)

Construction on the FirstNet network began in 2017 with $6.5 billion in public funding raised through an auction of TV broadcast spectrum repurposed for mobile use. That investment was supplemented by a commitment from AT&T to invest about $40 billion in the network over a multi-year period. AT&T also is allowed to use the network for its own commercial traffic when it is not needed by public safety users, who have pre-emption capability.

As a press release explains, new FirstNet Authority investments are “made possible through a sustainable business model that enables the organization to continually improve and advance the network.”

The AT&T spokesperson declined to provide the full projected cost to upgrade FirstNet to 5G, citing contract sensitivities, but said “We will have more information as the task orders are executed and implemented.”

The planned investment in FirstNet deployable assets expands on deployable assets that were previously made available.

Updated to include information from AT&T

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2 thoughts on “FirstNet Begins Path to 5G

  1. One of the hot spots in China in 2020 is to accelerate the deployment of 5G networks and expand 5G applications.More than 10,000 5G base stations will be added in China every week.

  2. That FirstNet Network map is a joke. Especially in New Mexico where AT&T has no service at all in a lot of places and relies supposedly on off-network roaming that does not actually exist. One case in point is the ski town of Red River, where AT&T customers cannot use their phones for anything. FirstNet was supposed to take care of that situation but it still exists. Meanwhile, Verizon has great LTE and T-Mobile has 5G there. With the huge influx of visitors from Texas and Oklahoma, both strongholds for AT&T, the situation as it exists is strange and very annoying when none of those people can use their phones once they get to their destination. Driving across the vast empty northeast New Mexico plains you can have great LTE service via AT&T's purchase of Plateau Wireless, but when you get to the mountains, you might as well just put your phone away for the duration of your vacation. Not a bad option in the grand scheme of things, but very annoying.

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