A total of 23 states or territories now have made the decision to opt in to FirstNet, the nationwide mobile broadband public safety network. Texas, Idaho and Maryland announced this week that they are joining in.
“As we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, our first responders are often the last and only hope for safety in rapidly-changing and life-threatening situations, but this partnership with FirstNet and AT&T, allows Texas’s fire, police, EMS and other public safety personnel to be better equipped when responding in these emergencies,” said Texas governor Greg Abbott in a press release announcing the decision in that state.
States Opt In to FirstNet
A state’s decision to opt in to FirstNet is good news for AT&T, which earlier this year won a contract to build a mobile broadband public safety network. Along with the contract came 20 MHz of spectrum and up to $6.5 billion from the government to cover some network costs, with AT&T pledging to invest an additional $40 billion. In addition, AT&T gets to use capacity in the FirstNet spectrum band for commercial purposes when it is not in use by public safety.
Individual states have the option of accepting AT&T’s proposal for the public safety network in each state or choosing a different network operator, who would then lease spectrum from AT&T and follow guidelines to ensure interoperability with the FirstNet network. To date, no state has opted out – although U.S. Cellular and Rivada Networks issued a press release indicating they had made a proposal in New Hampshire that calls for capacity in the FirstNet spectrum band to made available to wireless users throughout the state when not in use by public safety.
Meanwhile, Verizon is hoping to operate a core public safety network that would interoperate with the AT&T FirstNet core network. That move would enable the carrier to retain more of its existing public safety business but would require intervention by regulators.