Mike Poth, CEO, FirstNet

On March 30th, it was an honor to be on the same stage with first responders as U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the award of the contract that will establish America’s first nationwide public safety broadband network (“Network”) with dedicated access for first responders when they need it.  The FirstNet Network will be invaluable for first responders and the larger public safety community, as well as the people they serve and protect every day.  

This week marks FirstNet’s first month in a public-private partnership with AT&T, working with its team of Motorola Solutions, General Dynamics, Sapient Consulting and Inmarsat Government on the successful deployment of the Network.  Together, we've had an extremely productive month collaborating on a number of priorities, such as State Plans and the development of an online portal that will be used to deliver the plans to the states and territories.  We have also had initial discussions regarding the FirstNet core network architecture.  

This public-private partnership maintains the same sense of urgency that FirstNet has upheld since the beginning.  There are a number of key milestones that we are on track to achieve, including the expected delivery of draft State Plans in the June timeframe, which is three months ahead of FirstNet’s original target timeframe.

Additionally, in advance of delivering the draft State Plans, FirstNet and AT&T look forward to bringing all of the State Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) together to preview key information that will be shared in the online State Plans portal.  We will also review with the SPOCs the process for state plans.

We – FirstNet and AT&T – are confident that these State Plans will deliver a superior solution for public safety wireless broadband communications.  Our confidence in the FirstNet value proposition is a result of the rigorous acquisition process leading to a best value award as well as the market research that we conducted and the feedback we received from public safety over the last three years through our consultation and outreach efforts.  This truly is a network for public safety, by public safety.

As part of the Network solution, AT&T is making a significant investment in this Network for public safety: about $40 billion over the 25-year life of the contract.  In addition, instead of a “greenfield” build for the Network, our public-private partnership will use AT&T’s existing network infrastructure, valued at more than $180 billion.  Having an existing network on which to build will deliver specialized features to public safety faster – meaning less time to better outcomes for the public they serve and protect.

In fact, one of the key benefits that this public-private partnership will make available to public safety is the availability of quality of service and priority access once a governor accepts the FirstNet State Plan (“opt in”), with preemption services expected to be made available on all AT&T LTE bands as soon as the end of this year.

These features will become available over existing AT&T LTE bands nationwide while FirstNet deploys Band 14 for public safety.  This will dramatically increase the capacity available to public safety without having to wait for the availability of Band 14.  It will provide first responders with unprecedented access to the Network when the need arises without impact or competition from commercial customers. 

Further, AT&T also recently announced that it will roll out an additional 40 MHz of commercial spectrum in conjunction with the 20 MHz of FirstNet spectrum. This is a win-win scenario, as it further increases the capacity that will be available to all AT&T customers, including first responders on AT&T’s LTE bands.

Public safety agencies have been asking for priority and preemption over a broadband network for a long time, and we are excited to deliver on that promise to them.  This is an example of how we can use AT&T’s expertise and infrastructure investments to provide immediate, significant benefits to public safety.  We will also utilize these economies of scale to deliver an app and device ecosystem tailored to public safety.

We look forward to providing a number of other unique capabilities that meet public safety’s needs for the Network, such as a dedicated help desk.  Public safety works 24/7/365, so they need an “always on” specialized customer service experience that understands their unique operating environment.  FirstNet will be providing more details to the states on these and other solution features - such as coverage information - as we engage with them on the State Plans.

As we pledged to do, FirstNet and AT&T have hit the ground running with this public-private partnership. There is much work to be done and we won’t be letting up on the focus or drive to deliver this much needed Network for public safety.  We look forward to working with public safety and the states as we drive full steam ahead on State Plans and the launch of the nationwide public safety broadband network.

Mike Poth
Mike Poth CEO, FirstNet