AT&T has taken the next step toward building a nationwide wireless first responder network, according to an article published in Ars Technica. The network, called “FirstNet,” brings all fifty states into the same wireless network and will allow first responders to effectively communicate with each other in the case of emergencies. In many ways it is not different from the cellular networks we all use, but it will allow for clear, uncongested communication when it’s needed most.
AT&T has been awarded $6.5 billion to begin construction of the network using dedicated spectrum that was made available in 2015 by the FCC. They will operate the network for 25 years.
This is obviously one of those “no-brainer” sorts of ideas. Of course first responders have had their own radio frequencies for decades but without a modern digital cellular network it’s more and more difficult to share information. FirstNet will allow more sharing of information across the country, which is becoming more and more critical. It will also enable secure control of devices like drones and body cameras to make it easier for first responders to do remote surveillance.
According to AT&T’s press release, the new network will cover all 50 states, 5 US territories and Washington DC and will create 10,000 new jobs. AT&T is assembling a dream team that includes Motorola, General Dynamics and others to create a strong, durable network that will give first responders the ability to work together in ways that they never have before.
Over the next 25 years, AT&T will spend over $40 billion to build and maintain the network, and is expected to collect over $180 billion from fees and hardware related to the project. It’s a win for investors as well, clearly.
AT&T is ideally suited for this sort of venture, having spent over 100 years providing services to police, fire, and other government agencies. The company is firmly committed to serving the needs of communities all over the country and this is just the latest step.
With FirstNet, first responders will have access to the latest technologies in a simple and private way, just as they have for decades. This simply expands their reach past traditional radio broadcasts into the 21st century.