FirstNet Overview

FirstNet is a nationwide wireless broadband network and communications platform providing a reliable, resilient, highly available cellular network for emergency responders. The network offers the public safety community a dedicated communications network built and deployed through a public-private partnership between the federal government and AT&T.   

To ensure first responders stay connected during emergencies if commercial networks become overloaded or fail, FristNet provides a dedicated cellular network that provides always-on priority and preemption capabilities

The First Responder Network Authority is the federal entity charged with overseeing the creation and delivery of the FirstNet network. Housed within the Department of Commerce, the agency’s role is to ensure AT&T delivers on the terms of its contract and creates a network that meets the needs of the public safety community. 

For a history of FirstNet see this link 

FirstNet Capabilities

The FirstNet network, managed by AT&T, provides two groups of cellular bandwidth in the FirstNet network.  FirstNet initially was deployed over the AT&T Cellular Network, as the project expands AT&T is tasked with installing additional cellular towers to fill coverage gaps.  The second part of the project is installing cellular infrastructure to support Band 14 spectrum.  Band 14 is a band of spectrum assigned to the FirstNet Authority to provide dedicated cellular bandwidth for the Frist Responder community, this bandwidth is completely dedicated to the emergency community during an incident providing protected, dedicated network access. For more information on this network see the “Understanding the FirstNet Network” page.

FirstNet primary agencies will have access to a web-based dashboard providing access to information about the cellular networks and providing the ability to “uplift” users, including extended primary users, to a higher priority status during planned events and disaster incidents. Emergency managers can with extended primary organizations such as utilities, NGOs, and Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) groups to uplift communications priority and ensure successful communications between emergency organizations. 

By using the capabilities within FirstNet emergency managers can turn data into actionable information so all response entities can maintain situational awareness. FirstNet supports these efforts in many ways, including: 

  • High-volume data streaming to and from the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the field 
  • Improved tracking of vehicles, equipment, personnel, evacuees, etc. 
  • App Catalog for FirstNet with public safety and emergency management apps 
  • 72 FirstNet dedicated deployables available at no cost to FirstNet subscribers for planned events and disaster response/recovery 
  • Integration with NG-911 and Smart Cities applications 

Additional Resources

–  Current list of FirstNet Band14 compatible devices  – NIST List of Certified Devices

–  Cell and Wi-Fi network mobile suitcase system – Deployable suitcase solutions

–  Radio like push-to-talk capability for your cell phone – Linking FirstNet call phones to your Land Mobile Radio system 

– Mobile deployable assets –Deployable assets available for FirstNet users.

FirstNet Organizations

First Responder Network Authority  –

The First Responder Network Authority is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Chartered in 2012, its mission is to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the nationwide broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities. 

FirstNet by AT&T  –

AT&T was selected by the First Responder Network Authority as the nationwide network provider for FirstNet. AT&T will provide the Core network assuming operational, financial, and technical responsibilities associated with the network for up to 25 years. Each state and territory must choose to OptIn.  In 2017 Washington State opted-in to the FirstNet system. 

Washington OneNet  –

The Washington OneNet (WON) program was created to develop a comprehensive design for FirstNet in Washington State.  The program is under the co-direction of the Office of the Chief Information Officer and State Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC).  Washington OneNet’s priority is to ensure the communication and data sharing needs of Washington’s public safety stakeholders. 

Public Safety Broadband Technology Association   –

The Public Safety Broadband Technology Association is a non-profit membership organization focused on ensuring the success of the entire FirstNet ecosystem that includes the legal entity created by Congress, the network infrastructure, hardware and software, and the single most important component – the end-users.