FirstNet.com Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the FirstNet network?
    FirstNet will be a force-multiplier for first responders – giving the public safety community the 21st- century communication tools it needs to help save lives and keep communities and first responders safe. The foundation of the FirstNet service is a highly reliable highly secure broadband network dedicated to public safety. This is the first time public safety communications will be based on global standards like Global System for Mobile Communications, realize the benefits of economies of scale, and see rapid evolution of advanced communication capabilities, on a network designed for public safety users.

  2. What is the First Responder Network Authority?
    It is an independent authority established by Congress in 2012 with the mission to ensure the deployment of a nationwide broadband network dedicated to America’s public safety community. FirstNet grew out of and addresses a 9/11 Commission recommendation calling for improved communications for all U.S. first responders. The FirstNet network will strengthen public safety’s communications capabilities, enabling them to coordinate and respond more quickly and effectively in disasters and emergencies and for everyday public safety operations.

  3. What is the role of AT&T in the FirstNet network?
    After a rigorous, competitive process, the First Responder Network Authority selected AT&T as the nationwide public safety broadband network provider. AT&T will provide a turnkey experience (including deploying the Core network and assuming operational, financial, and technical responsibilities associated with the network for up to 25 years) to each state and territory that Opt In to the proposed State Plan, as well as provide discrete Core network elements and services to Opt-Out states. This first of its kind public-private partnership is poised to modernize public safety resources, infrastructure, and cost-effectiveness.

  4. Why is the FirstNet network a necessary and relevant undertaking?
    Whether they’re responding to a local emergency or supporting a disaster in another city or state, public safety deserves a network that will be there for them whenever and wherever they need it. This unifying network will allow first responders and other public safety personnel to communicate across different agencies and jurisdictions throughout the country.  Given current difficulties in doing this, the FirstNet network will allow public safety entities to better coordinate when jointly responding to human-caused and natural disasters.

  5. What is the role of public safety in the creation of the FirstNet network?
    Public safety officials have worked closely with – and been a part of - the First Responder Network Authority since its inception in 2012.  FirstNet’s outreach and consultation efforts have connected with more than 1.8 million public safety stakeholders across the country, consulting extensively with each single point of contact (SPOC) in each of the 50 U.S. states, five territories, and the District of Columbia, as well as local/municipal/tribal/federal and public safety leaders. FirstNet also coordinates with and receives input from the public safety community through the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), which provides guidance and public safety subject matter expertise.

  6. How does FirstNet compare to what’s currently available to public safety?

    Today:
    • Networks get congested in disasters and emergencies, making it difficult for first responders and other public safety personnel to communicate, coordinate and do their jobs.    
    • The public safety community uses more than 10,000 radio networks – which creates difficulty when trying to communicate across agencies or jurisdictions.
    With the FirstNet network:
    • First responders and other public safety personnel will access one highly secure, nationwide, interoperable communications network that will support voice, data, text and video communications.
    • Public safety will have dedicated access to this network in times of crisis– their communications needs will come before non-public safety users.
    • FirstNet will also deliver specialized features to further the public safety mission, including priority, preemption and more network capacity; a resilient, hardened connection; and an applications ecosystem with innovative applications and services.
    • Devices connected to the network – such as wearables, drones and vehicles – will relay near real-time information to improve situational awareness and, ultimately, help save lives both of public safety responders on the front lines and the communities they protect.
  7. Who is included in the FirstNet public safety community?
    Law enforcement, the fire service, and emergency medical services personnel will be FirstNet’s primary users. Extended primary users are other entities that provide public safety services, including individuals, agencies, organizations, non-profit or for-profit companies who are not primary users, but who may be called upon to support public safety personnel with the mitigation, remediation, overhaul, clean-up, restoration, or other such services that are required during or after emergencies or incidents.

  8. What does the FirstNet network provide for public safety?

    • A single, nationwide, reliable, highly secure and interoperable LTE broadband network
    • Coverage for millions of first responders and public safety personnel across 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia, including rural communities and tribal lands in those states and territories
    • Dedicated IP core with priority and preemption capabilities
    • Interoperability across public safety agencies and jurisdictions
    • Customized customer service with dedicated 24x7x365 care support
    • Highly secure application ecosystem
    • Network disaster recovery resources
    • Close collaboration with other public safety responders to stage and prepare for potential disasters and better support event resolution
    • A more resilient ruggedized network for public safety personnel
  9. How will FirstNet address the needs of public safety in less-populated areas?
    Emergencies can happen anywhere, so building out the network in rural areas is just as important as for densely populated urban areas. The extended FirstNet network will have the more robust communications capabilities public safety needs in emergencies and for normal operations, resulting in greater ability for rural public safety practitioners. Today, the AT&T voice and data network reaches more than 99% of Americans. The FirstNet network will extend beyond that footprint, into rural areas with less coverage, to support public safety in emergency situations.

  10. What are State Plans and how do they work? How do they affect my ability to get FirstNet service?
    Each state or territory will receive a plan outlining how the network will be deployed in such state or territory. These plans are based on the extensive consultation and outreach the First Responder Network Authority has conducted with states, territories, tribes, localities, and the public safety community.

    The State Plans will be delivered through an online portal to SPOC teams and governors. The target for sharing plans is mid-June, with up to a 45-day review period for the states and territories. There is an opportunity to exchange feedback with FirstNet before the official 90-day clock starts for each state or territory governor to make an “Opt-In/Opt-Out” decision on its State Plan.

    Once a state Opts-In, FirstNet network service will be available to public safety agencies in that state or territory. Any state or territory that Opt-Out assumes the responsibility and associated costs for the ongoing deployment, operation, maintenance, and improvement of a public safety Radio Access Network in such state or territory, which must be maintained in accordance with FirstNet’s network policies.

  11. When will public safety be able to use the FirstNet network?
    Once the governor of the state or territory Opts-In, public safety can subscribe to FirstNet services.

  12. Will first responders on other wireless networks be able to take advantage of the FirstNet network?
    Benefits of FirstNet will be available to first responders and other public safety personnel who sign up for service on the FirstNet network after their governor Opts-In.

  13. Will first responders have access to priority and preemption?
    Yes. One of the key benefits of the public/private partnership between FirstNet and AT&T will be the availability of quality of service and priority for data services immediately after a state or territory Opts-In. Preemption capabilities will be available to primary users on all AT&T commercial LTE bands estimated by the end of 2017, and on FirstNet Band 14 as it is deployed.

  14. How will the network manage priority and preemption?
    A priority and preemption profile will be coded into the FirstNet user’s device. This will allow the network to recognize and manage access based on the user profiles established by FirstNet and the public safety agencies.  Preemption services will remove active sessions from non-first responders when network resources are scarce or fully occupied in times of emergency.

  15. How will this network withstand natural disasters, such as flooding or hurricanes?
    The first line of defense against network impact from natural disasters is a hardened, strengthened network. AT&T builds network infrastructure to meet or exceed national standards and local wind and earthquake load requirements. They have continued to strengthen the network in hurricane-prone areas by:

    • Installing back-up and permanent generators at critical cell sites and switching facilities
    • Locating critical equipment in less vulnerable areas
    • Locating electronics critical to network operations above expected flood levels
    • Protecting physical facilities against flooding

    Additionally, AT&T will provide power to the network in case commercial power is lost by adding more generators for use immediately after a storm hits. They will also place switches and generators critical to network operations in upper floors of buildings in case of flooding. AT&T has already elevated key distribution facilities in many low-lying areas and upgraded electronics in many locations, replacing copper wiring with fiber optic cable.

  16. What is the plan for disaster recovery ?
    AT&T leads one of the nation’s largest and most advanced disaster programs and will increase its fleet with new deployables to support the FirstNet network. This gives public safety access to Cell on Wheels (COWs), Cell on Light Trucks (COLTs), trailers, generators and more. AT&T also holds 130,000+ hours of field experience conducting Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) exercises, performing full-scale recovery exercises each year to test its equipment and abilities.

  17. How will the FirstNet network provider handle cyberattacks that may threaten the network?
    The FirstNet network provider, AT&T, has two eight world-class Global Security Operations Centers dedicated to the FirstNet network, where security experts analyze the traffic on the network 24/7/365 to help understand and identify the latest emerging threats. AT&T uses a multi-layered security approach to embed security within its network and help secure individual devices, data sets, and applications. They also use overarching threat analysis to understand the latest threats and help prevent against them.

  18. How can I learn more about FirstNet?
    This site – www.FirstNet.com – is a great resource for those who want to learn about FirstNet services, the unique value of the FirstNet network to public safety, and how to subscribe for the FirstNet service once your state or territory Opts-In. You can also visit www.FirstNet.gov to learn about FirstNet’s programs and activities, including its consultation and outreach with public safety, the State Plans process, FirstNet’s history and promise, and how it plans to ensure the FirstNet network meets the needs of public safety – every day and in every emergency. To have a conversation specifically about your interests, you may contact a FirstNet Specialist at FirstNet.com.