Bringing broadband access and public safety communications through FirstNet to the Navajo Nation

December 6, 2023

Window Rock, Ariz. – The Office of the President and Vice President for the Navajo Nation (OPVP) has been working closely over the past few months with Navajo Nation Shopping Centers, Inc. (NNSCI), AT&T and Cellular One to accelerate the expansion of high-speed broadband access with a focus on enhancing public safety communications across Navajo Nation by launching new sites with FirstNet®, Built with AT&T.  

NNSCI and Cellular One in October signed a historic agreement allowing for the construction of multiple mono stacks – miniature telecom towers – in key locations on five NNSCI properties. OPVP, with the help of the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, the Division of Natural Resources and the Division of Economic Development, paved the way for this unprecedented agreement. This also allows for the co-location of the wireless equipment to expand FirstNet and additional AT&T LTE coverage. Revenue from the subleases will flow to NNSCI, which is beneficial for invigorating local economies where the NNSCI sites are located. This sets an important precedent for other communities to enter into similar agreements to boost local economic vitality.

“This historic milestone supports the expansion of broadband across Navajo as well as economic vitality for Tribal communities, but–perhaps more importantly– it opens the door for these types of agreements in other communities,” said Cellular One CEO Judd Hinkle. “This allows Chapters, schools and other organizations to stimulate economic growth as well as better broadband access in their local areas by entering into similar sublease agreements.”

NNSCI provided five ideal locations for the new broadband mono stacks: Window Rock, Shiprock, Kayenta, Tuba City, and Pinon. Although 200-foot macro telecom towers are a critical component to a wireless broadband network, these smaller mono stack towers also play an essential role to support the buildout of wireless broadband, as well as lay the foundation for 5G technology.   

“Our team at NNSCI worked diligently to ensure that this new agreement with Cellular One would effectively serve the needs of our local communities and those who travel to our shopping centers from far and wide. The NNSCI welcomes the addition of wireless broadband and 5G technology to the 5 properties and the benefits associated with such network enhancements,” said NNSCI CEO, Nick Taylor. “We deeply appreciate Cellular One and the forward-thinking administration and Tribal leaders for their support in making this possible.”

Cellular One has worked side by side with Tribal leadership and organizations for 30 years, continually increasing access to affordable mobile voice and data, broadband, and other technology services for underserved Tribal and rural communities, schools, health care organizations, and public safety officials.

In 2017, the federal government selected AT&T as the private-sector partner to build, operate and evolve FirstNet. As part of the nationwide buildout, AT&T collaborated with small and rural providers to further extend the reach of FirstNet in rural and tribal communities. Since the FirstNet buildout began, more than 100 FirstNet towers have launched on Navajo Nation. In the Four Corners region, AT&T collaborated with regional providers, including Cellular One, to buildout Band 14 and additional AT&T LTE spectrum.

Cellular One, through the collaboration with AT&T, has already launched nearly 120 new FirstNet sites that expand FirstNet in rural and tribal communities in the Southwest, including more than 60 sites across Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and White Mountain Apache Tribal lands. The new infrastructure also expands AT&T commercial LTE service in the region. Cellular One expects additional sites to launch this year.

Hinkle added, “We are proud to work arm in arm with Tribal leadership, NNSCI, and AT&T to speed deployment of FirstNet on Tribal lands in northern Arizona and the Four Corners region. When emergencies occur, time is of the essence and access to reliable and dedicated communications technology is critical to ensuring the best possible outcomes. We’re proud to support first responders serving Navajo communities by helping to more quickly make FirstNet a reality on Tribal lands.”


FirstNet and the FirstNet logo are registered trademarks and service marks of the First Responder Network Authority. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.