Published: Sat, April 01, 2017
Markets | By Lucia Cruz

AT&T to build network for first responders

Congress set aside federal funds for the project, called FirstNet, but it has been dogged by delays and false starts.

FirstNet will furnish the spectrum and pay AT&T $6.5 billion over the next five years.

AT&T was the last company standing when the First Responder Network Authority told the other two bidders they were no longer being considered.

"This step was part of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations on improving the ability of our police, fire, and emergency medical personnel to communicate seamlessly across jurisdictions, which is critical to their missions", said White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is an independent agency under the U.S. Department of Commerce.

While AT&T won the national contract, it now must compete at the state level. "This public-private partnership will also spur innovation and create over ten thousand new jobs in this cutting-edge sector".

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First responders use the same wireless networks that regular people do, meaning police channels can get clogged by heavy usage from civilians.

"This mission-critical broadband network is virtually unprecedented in public safety", said Jeffrey Johnson, vice chairman of FirstNet. We look forward to working with state and local public safety officials across North Carolina to build a strong and highly secure communications network that meets the unique needs of our state's first responders. In addition, FirstNet and AT&T will maximize the resources they are bringing to the partnership to create a financially self-sustaining network. "Our next-generation technology isn't just going to save lives, but it's going to keep our first responders safer and make our communities safer, because it's going to provide extra situational awareness for people out in the field". On Thursday, AT&T said the rollout would begin later this year.

The idea was first raised by the 9/11 Commission Report, which noted that heavy traffic on the commercial wireless networks can prevent first responders from effectively communicating in the wake of a natural disaster or serious attack.

Supporting AT&T and Motorola Solutions in the FirstNet rollout include General Dynamics, Sapient Consulting and Inmarsat Government.

While the dedicated network is under construction, Stephens said AT&T is working on technology that gives priority to first responders who use the current network during an emergency.

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